In order to be good parents to our children, we’ve all been told that we need to take care of ourselves first… or at least simultaneously. This “oxygen mask mentality” (think airline emergency procedures) is especially true and often more difficult for those of us parenting kids with special needs. In my ASD circle, I see time and again how quickly a parent’s own physical and mental health gets sidelined when their kid’s checklist runs so long.
To that, I raise my hand: Guilty as charged! And as I leave a particularly demanding summer behind, I believe it’s time to start checking off some boxes on the self-care list. Here’s a place to start:
- SEE YOUR DOCTOR
When was the last time you had a physical? Or completed that follow-up visit afterwards? The cholesterol check, dental cleaning, dermo screening, scan. You wouldn’t leave ends loose concerning your child’s medical care, so take a minute to book your appointments and tie up your own.
- GET PHYSICAL
Exercise is like medicine for many of our kids. Why not for us? Doctors preach that thirty minutes three times a week is a healthy average. I aim for twice a week at a gym close to my son’s school. Yoga is the best prescription when my cortisol is through the roof; weights when I’m sluggish. Even a simple walk outside during times of particular insanity can help ease stress.
- GO ON A DATE
Yes, our significant others play an equally important a role in our lives, but my husband doesn’t always feel that way! So remember to strengthen and nurture your family’s foundation with some adults-only time. If a babysitter isn’t in your budget, then look into respite support through your state’s Department of Developmental Services. In California, for instance, state and federal funding is managed locally by Regional Centers that act as last-resort funders of respite hours and other critical services.
- FIND YOUR VILLAGE
Like it or not, our job can be polarizing. If you haven’t already done so, I dare you to step outside of your own vacuum and meet face to face with other parents at an organized support group. Go to more than one, find the right fit, or create a group if such a network doesn’t yet exist close to home. Parenting special needs is a lifelong career that you may or may not have signed up for; you can’t do it alone. I’ve become a part of Love My Provider because I believe this to my core. It really does take a village, a very special village in our case. So open your arms to support and give back what you can, whenever you can.