The day you become a parent changes everything and there will always have to be a give and take to find the balance that our souls so desperately crave. The problem lies in the fact that for many of us, while we know parenthood is an amazing blessing, it often turns into an all take experience.
As parents, we are desperate to understand and help our children succeed and prevail over any challenges that may come their way. Far too often I see parents who, out of the most genuine love, lose themselves while helping their children. I believe that cases of this increase when your child may need extra interventions and have daily struggles that require more to get through the basics.
Having a child diagnosed on the spectrum can bring a variety of different emotions and responsibilities depending on the day. Your priorities often change because they have to, and the scale of give and take seems to tip even more off balance. While you are in love with your child and grateful for them you are also tired, stressed, and often worried. The stress of processing your reality and navigating it year after year can add a lot of stress to the other members in the household as well.
Now to get to the good stuff! It’s time to put all that aside and think about YOU!
It’s time to get some balance in your life and that means that as parents we need to take some time to be selfish. Just go with me here and I promise you that in the end the other members of your household will be grateful, and so will you. I get it, you may not have the time, money, or energy for anything extra. However, those are all excuses, so get out your calendar because it’s about time you penciled yourself and your priorities in. Here are a few steps you need to take in order to keep yourself happy, healthy, and functioning:
- Stay connected with your spouse.
If you are in a relationship it is critical that the two of you go through this together. Things can seem isolating at times and nothing will keep you stronger than knowing your spouse has your back and vice versa. You have a built-in support system that truly will understand what your life is like, so take advantage of that.
It is important to remember not to shut down on one another and keep each other in the loop on all the emotions this process may bring, no matter what they are. Don’t do the research alone! Do it together. Make choices together. Laugh together. Cry Together. Worry together. Celebrate together!
Now I truly get that every household doesn’t work like this, and often people are not on the same page. If this is the case please reach out to a family member, support group, friend, or anyone who will be there for you. Maybe they aren’t there for you daily, but overall you know that you are not alone and never will be because they have your back. Plus I am going to be quite frank for a minute. People around you are either going to be part of the problem or part of the solution, and you my friend only have the time and energy for one of those.
- Find A Support Group
Spend some time finding other families who understand what you are going through in your household. It is incredibly refreshing to look at someone, say the word “ABA” and have them know you are referring to the therapy that your child may be in.
Of course all kids on the spectrum are different and so are all the families that care for them, so go find others who share some of your philosophies. There are in-person support groups, online groups, and so much more. Just a fair warning that every group or person may not be for you, but don’t give up, keep searching for that connection. It may be something that you think you don’t need, but I wholeheartedly disagree.
And guess what? if you can’t find a local group . . . start one! There are probably a decent amount of other parents out there in your same situation.
- Get Out Of The House (Grocery Store Doesn’t Count)
While a trip to the store by yourself may feel like the gates of heaven have opened, that is not what I am talking about here. Be sure to take some time to get out and stay social on even a small level with your family and friends. In the beginning you may feel a bit disconnected, but in the long run it is going to be the thing that adds some balance to your life and gives you that sense of relief and normalcy that we all need as parents.
- Work Out
I get it you are tired and stressed but there is something to be said about the power of living a healthy lifestyle. It can increase your energy, reduce your stress levels, and flat out leave you feeling like a total superhero. Oh yeah, plus it leads you to have better overall health.
I swear I finish a workout and I feel like I can take on anything. This isn’t something that takes a lot of money or even time. I even have my kids do it with me some days! The bottom line is that it is hard to get started, but once you do I guarantee that you are going to wish you had done this a while ago.
- Get A Hobby
I don’t care whether you like to weave baskets, write, fly kites, read, take baths, or collect rocks this last one is a must! It can simply be a few minutes a day or even a week. You need to do things that feed your soul. We all have gifts and passions and they are there for a reason. Take some time, even small bits to do things that make you feel empowered, rejuvenated, and whole.
I am not even going to write anything else. Seriously, put down your phone or computer and figure out how you are going to make these things happen. Put them in your calendar like they are a non-negotiable work appointment that you cannot cancel. Take the time to nurture yourself and realize that you matter too. The more you realize this and act on it, the better you will be able to take on everything else.
By Jessica Nieminski
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