“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
― Fred Rogers,
Parenting can be a challenging and stressful job under any circumstances, but parenting a special needs child can at times feel overwhelming. Many times those of us raising these children can feel isolated and alone. Just going to the grocery store can be an exhausting task if you have a child who meltdowns as soon as they see something they want. It’s difficult to get together with friends and family, especially if you are caring for a child who triggers easily and their behaviors are unpredictable. Some of us are dealing with children who are having daily meltdowns. Kicking, screaming, yelling, threatening, biting, and destroying property; it can be unbelievable stressful and difficult to manage.
Somehow though we as parents have to find a way to manage that stress. We have to find a way to keep calm in the middle of a hurricane in the form of our child. Since we legally can’t duct tape them and lock them in a closet (so I’m told), we have to find other healthy outlets to keep ourselves sane. Below are some useful ways to relieve stress that were given to me by our in-home support team. The first ones are ways I usually try to cope since strapping him to the bed and locking the door is NOT an option. Although at times I wish it were. Joking!
- Yoga I find to be extremely beneficial to calming down. I’m unable to go to a studio so I turned our spare room into a yoga/meditation room and I use an App on my Ipad called “Yoga Studio.”
- Meditation is another tool I use to cope with daily stress. Even if I just sit for fifteen minutes a day in a quiet space it can make a difference.
- Journaling is a fantastic way to express the feelings you may not be able to express out loud. Sometimes I just want to scream and pull out my hair and getting those feelings into words on paper helps.
- Music is what I listen to when I’m feeling overwhelmed by anxiety. I just throw on my headphones and hide out on the back porch and take time to recuperate. It also helps to have just those few moments away from the chaos.
- Healthy Eating Habits may sound silly but it makes such a difference. Eating healthy helps you to have a clearer mind and improves your capacity to endure stress. As does exercise and trying to get the proper rest at night. My son tends to be up late at night so I try and take cat naps while he’s at school.
- Socialization I know is not an easy task when you have an out of control child as I do. The most interactions I have are usually online or with my son’s support teams. If you can though, get out, be with friends or family. Join a support group that meets in person or online. Having outside support can make such a difference when you have a child with chronic behavior problems.
These next couple of stress management tips are from a book called “The Explosive Child.” I haven’t read it yet but our in-home support team gave us a handout with these tips on them.
- Learn to Control Your Anger: Disobedient and explosive children all respond with renewed mischief when their parents lose control. The defiant child sees their parent’s loss of control of their anger as a victory for them, so their misbehavior continues. The explosive child needs a parent to model good ways to handle frustration rationally and calmly. You cannot train your child to tolerate frustration until you are calm enough to handle the frustration of having an explosive child.
- Spend Special Time with Your Child: All children benefit from one-on-one attention from a loving parent. Much misbehavior stems from the child’s attempt to gain a parent’s attention. Explosive children cause so much frustration for their parents that the parent has to work to restore a calm atmosphere and supportive rapport that will allow the child to learn. (I know this is NOT an easy task at times. There are days my child has been screaming at me for five days straight and all I want to do is hide from him. But it really is important so that your child still feels loved and cared for.)
- Plan Lifestyle Changes: In order to manage stress, you must change your life. Changing your life involves effort and planning to make it work. You might try sitting down every Sunday and scheduling stress management activities and priorities into the following week.
I have found that if I’m in a negative state of mind, I’m not in a state of mind in which I can appropriately care for my child. Taking care of yourself has to be one of your utmost priorities. I know there are times I feel as though I should be the one checking myself into a hospital, but then there would be no one to care for my son so I have to take care of me.
Here are some websites that I have found useful in the past and present:
HealthyPlace – http://www.healthyplace.com/
BringChangeToMind – http://www.bringchange2mind.org/
Autism Causes- http://www.autism-causes.com/the-meltdown.html
The Balanced Mind Foundation- http://www.thebalancedmind.org/?gclid=COfHyMruuroCFQhgMgodM3kARQ