Self care for Parent Carers

As a parent of a disabled child, it can be hard to take care of yourself when there are so many other demands on your time.  Fighting for services, dealing with your own emotional fallout as well as lack of sleep or downtime can take its toll.  Here I look at some simple tips for you to develop your own ‘Carer care package’.

Social support

Turn to friends, family or your partner for help. Tell them if you need a chat, time out or just a hug.  People generally want to help.  Research suggests that those parents who receive more, or more helpful, social support also report higher levels of well being. (1)

Just breathe

A simple breathing exercise can help us deal with stress when challenges or frustrations are pushing us to the edge.  Try this:

Breathe in through the nose for the count of 3
Breathe out through your mouth for a count of 6
Repeat 5 times

Book in some ‘me-time’

Research shows that having some time where you lose yourself in the ‘flow’ of an activity can be really grounding and have relaxation benefits. Whether it is sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea, knitting, gardening or going for a jog.  Protect this time, mark it out in your diary, do not answer the telephone or the door.  It’s your time and it’s precious.

Identify your strengths

Sometimes the daily grind can get us down. It can be helpful to remember what is going well and what our strengths are.  Think about:

  • What is the best thing about you?
  • What is your most significant achievement?
  • Where have you shown resilience?
  • How can these strengths help you in the future?

Writing them down can help you to appreciate your achievements.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

Whilst Nietzsche’s motto is rather simplified, research has shown a correlation between those who have been through a difficult or traumatic experience and those that show something called ‘post-traumatic growth’ (3). In my survey at affinityhub.uk around three-quarters of parents of disabled children reported an increase in fighting spirit, sense of expertise and putting life in perspective.  Recognise what you have achieved and do so on a daily basis.  You are an advocate on behalf of your child. You are an ambassador to help society become more inclusive and accepting.

Basic self-care

We all know what they are:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs or smoking as a way of coping

They may seem simple but can make the world of difference. A 20 minute walk around the block can help put things into perspective.  Going to bed half an hour earlier can make you feel more refreshed.

For more tips on wellbeing click here

Speak to a professional

There may be times in your life when despite doing all the above you feel you need to speak to someone like a counsellor or psychologist about how you are feeling.  If so, you can talk to your GP for a referral or there is a list of organisations and private professionals who have personal or professional experience of supporting parents carers on the affinityhub.uk website.

Survey

If you would like to take part in a survey on ‘The emotional impact of parenting a disabled child’ please go to the website affinityhub.uk

For updates on affinityhub.uk and disability news please follow us on facebook and twitter.

References

  1. White and Hastings, ‘Social and Professional support for Parents of Adolescents with Severe Intellectual Disabilities’ (2004) in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
  2. Csikszentmihalyi, M. Flow: The Classic work on how to achieve happiness(2002)
  3. Joseph, S. What Doesn’t Kill Us: A guide to overcoming adversity and moving forward (2011)

 

5 things every parent of a disabled child should know

  1. It’s not your fault
    Parents often feel an illogical guilt about their disabled child.  It’s part of the parenting instinct to protect your child.  However, sometimes guilt can get in the way of looking after yourself and your child.  Give yourself a break.
  2. Sometimes you fight, sometimes you rest
    There are lots of battles involved in parenting a disabled child.  Know when to fight, and when to save your energy for another time.
  3. Your child is still a child
    Remember that your child still needs cuddles, play, interaction as any other child. It can be hard as a parent when it feels like the demands of things such as physiotherapy or speech therapy take away from the precious time of just being with your child.
  4. Make contact with other parents of children with special needs
    You are not alone. Speaking to others who have similar concerns and frustrations can really help you feel less isolated.
  5. Look after yourself
    You are a carer and you need to be nurtured.   That may involve respite, time with others, keeping up hobbies or time spent without appointments and other pressures.  Give yourself permission to take time for yourself.

    www.affinityhub.uk
    Emotional support for parents of children with special needs