Parenting is a tough job under the best of circumstances. It requires skills, patience and personal growth and is mixed with both rewards and stresses. To parent a child who has a chronic illness or disability brings a whole new level of stress and joy that others rarely comprehend.
With little support from the outside world, it’s imperative that you take care of yourself. Remember the flight attendant on an airplane who says to first place the oxygen mask on yourself before placing one on a child? It’s the same way with parenting. If we don’t bring fresh air to ourselves, we have little left to give to our children.
Find time to relax. This is easier said than done! But it’s important to find ways to de-stress when you start to feel overwhelmed. Managing stress will bring balance in your life. Start small – take 5 minutes a day for that thing that you really miss doing for yourself and then grow that time as much as you need to refresh.
Ask for help. The more people you have to help you, the better. It’s not always easy to ask for help, even when you really need it. Do it anyway. Many times friends and family members want to help but don’t know how. When you make your needs known, you may be surprised by the willingness of others to pitch in. It helps to know you are not alone.
Learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the less anxiety you’ll feel.
Connect with others who share similar experiences. Some of the best survival tips come from those who came before you and those who are in the trenches with you.
Trust your instincts. Don’t ignore what doctors, teachers, and specialists tell you, but listen to your gut, too. Remember, you know your child best. Follow your instincts. Decisions you make don’t have to be based on what anyone else says should happen or what others have done. It’s for you to decide what’s best for you and your child.
Encourage your child’s independence. Good parenting doesn’t mean you do everything for your child. Teach your child to do things for himself. "The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence." — Denis Waitley
Whether you’ve just recently learned of your child’s diagnosis or you’ve been living this life for a long while, remember that you don’t have to be a superhero or saint to be a good parent. But you do need to take care of yourself. Check out additional ideas on self-care, navigating daily life, and family support on this website.