Dear Special Needs Parent,
Take care of yourself. The life you live is intense. Your peaks and valleys are extreme. At times, it seems like you’ll never stop living in the valley. Then suddenly, things ease up. You wonder, Will this last? If I celebrate peace, will I jinx things?
Friend, how stressful it is to go from one extreme to another. Long term stress, or chronic stress, is not a good thing.
Are you managing your stress?
That may seem a trite question but the ramifications are far-reaching. Recently, chronic stress has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.
As a special need parent, this is sobering on many levels. There aren’t many things within your control, but there is one: how you react to your situation. Friend, it might make a great difference in the long run.
How you react to the valleys, peaks, constant changes and all the unknowns in your life as a special needs parent will make a critical difference now, but also 20, 30, 40+ years from now.
Think of all the thoughts that float through your mind throughout the day.
- How is my child?
- Am I hovering?
- Should I be jotting down my observations for the doctor?
- Am I doing enough?
- How will my child do out in their world today?
- Who can I call to check on my child? Or should I be calling?
- How will I present my child to the world today via clothes, shoes, cleanliness, etc?
- Do I worry too much?
- How are my other children?
- Do I have too much on my plate?
- Have I focused too much on my special needs child?
- How are we as a family?
- How is my marriage?
- How are my relationships?
- How are my finances?
- How is my child’s medical condition?
- Am I vigilant enough?
- How am I communicating with the schools?
- How can I do more?
Those are just the random thoughts. Then there are the critical decisions, like
- When do I set up guardianship?
- What does my child do after high school?
- What happens to my child after I am gone?
This just scratches the surface. No wonder you’re stressed.
Yet it is in how you cope with these thoughts and decisions and all the many changes in your life, that ultimately makes the difference. Here are some suggestions.
You don’t need a gym membership. You don’t need special equipment. You don’t need a lot of time. But you DO need to start something, now.
- Go for a walk. Take your child with you.
- Jump around in your den.
- Put on a yoga dvd.
- Anything, but do it.
Whatever is keeping you up at night, change it.
- Go to bed earlier. Eight hours is a good goal, and less is undesirable. Remember, your life is intense.
- Make your sleeping environment dark and comfortable.
- Cut out sweets, caffeine, and electronic devices a couple hours before you sleep.
- Eat your last meal several hours before you go to bed.
- Get in a routine to help your body wind down and know it’s time for sleep.
Different from rest, but equally important.
- Enjoy a hobby.
- Put yourself in another world for at least ten minutes.
- Get outside your own world and bless someone else. Your life is a challenge, but others have different challenges. Write a note. Bake a cake. Have coffee with someone who needs to get out. You’ll bring them joy, but the joy you will experience will be soul-deep.
- A good belly laugh is good for your spirit, and good for you physically. Laugh with people, laugh with books, or find a good television show that consistently makes you laugh.
- Gather with friends and family. Challenging sometimes, but the people we love, love our special ones and all their idiosyncrasies. You need these people. You need this time. Don’t avoid fellowship.
Above all, pray.
- God loves you. Explore the Bible and find out how deep His love is.
- Spend time praying. Prayer is a two-way conversation between you and God. Remember to just be still and listen after you’ve poured out your heart to Him.
- If it seems that you don’t have time to sit with God, you are wrong. This is the one thing that will get you through the stress of everyday life, the intensity of special needs parenting, and the crucial decisions you must make for your child. Take heart: God will lead you. Even better, God will love you unconditionally as you make mistakes, as you succeed, as you fumble your way along. No matter what you do, if you put your faith in Jesus, He will never leave you.
Dear friends, embracing stress is not a good way to live. Let’s embrace a better way to live within the boundaries of special needs parenting. Let’s be happy, loving people who happen to walk a difficult path. We can do this with God.
Blessings — Teresa
This beautiful photo: Nathan Anderson, Unsplash.com
Lead photo credit: Andre Hunter, Unsplash.com