Parenting a child with a disability or special health care needs is rewarding, fills us with love, and can also take its toll. When we are constantly in the role of caregiver, it is easy to neglect ourselves. The best way we can help our children is to take care of ourselves.
We know some of you might like these ideas, and some of you might not. What works for one parent may not work for another. And, we all face different challenges with time, money, and how comfortable we feel being away from our children. But, the bottom line is that parenting a child with a disability or special health care needs is challenging, and taking care of ourselves is important.
Here are some ideas from other parents that we hope help you and your family.
Why Taking Care of Ourselves Is So Important
- By taking care of ourselves first (hard to do but super important), we will be better able to take care of our family.
- It helps to recharge our batteries every day, even for just 5 minutes so we don’t feel as tired and run-down.
Daily Self-Care Tips
Be gentle with yourself. If self-care is new to you, take baby steps. Don’t feel like you have to do everything suggested on this list. See if any of the suggestions below are helpful—if not, create your own.
- Try to get enough sleep each night, drink lots of water, and eat healthy foods that nourish your body.
- Work movement or exercise into every day, even if you can only do 5-10 minutes of dancing in the kitchen with your kids.
- Schedule and keep your own doctor's appointments to help stay physically healthy.
- Find time each day for a few minutes of quiet time to write in a journal, read, or listen to music.
- Deep breathing can go a long way in helping us relax and feel more centered. Breathe in deeply through your nose while feeling your diaphragm and belly expand, hold your breath for a few seconds, and exhale through your nose.
- Go outside. Nature has a way of calming and centering us. Go for a walk, run, or hike through a park or your neighborhood. Kids love being outside, too, so this is a good one to do even when your kids are with you.
- Spend time with your spouse or partner. Even if it’s difficult to go on regular dates, set aside time each day to reconnect, even if you just have time for a cup of coffee together in the morning for 5-10 minutes.
- Take people up on their offers of help or look into respite care, so you can have time to do other things like read a book or spend time with your other children.
- Join friends for coffee, a monthly book club, or a moms’ / dads’ night out. Build your support community, especially if you are a single parent. Start with 1 or 2 activities a month, and then add more as you get comfortable and find more time.
- Nurture your emotional and spiritual needs. Some parents find talking with a therapist or clergy member helpful. Others practice yoga, attend a spiritual community, journal, paint, or read poetry. Do what works for you and helps you.
Suggested Links to Additional Resources