How to Prevent Fatigue as a Parent of a Special Needs Child

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Parenting is a challenge! It’s not a walk in the park no matter what the media presents. Committing to caring for another human being from the time they are conceived to the moment you take your last breath, takes a lot out of you. Doing it multiple times takes a lot out of you. Balancing parenthood with other life commitments, (self care, marriage, work, etc) takes a lot out of you.

I know you only want the best for your children and think it’s not a big deal to put yourself last, but parental fatigue matters. Parents from more individualistic (typically Western) countries had higher rates of parental burnout than those from Eastern countries (Affective Science, Vol. 2, 2021). Individualistic cultures tend to value competition, performance, and perfectionism, which increases stress, all the while decreasing resources by discouraging parents from asking for support.

People already experiencing multiple stressors, such as single parents, parents of special needs children, and immigrant parents, may also have a lower threshold for increasing stress because of the ongoing demands of parenting. (Abramson, A. Monitor on Psychology. Vol. 52, No. 7, 2021).

Fatigue and burnout can easily creep up on you when balancing a full-time job and your parental duties. For this post, we will focus on parents of special needs children.

Without proper self-care, you can experience physical and mental consequences that not only affect you but also your family and work life. Between helping your child with dressing, feeding, and other basic needs, you also must be your child’s advocate when dealing with doctors, insurance companies, teachers, and support staff. This sense of deep fatigue can seem never-ending. (“Overcoming Parental Fatigue: Tips for Parents of Special Needs Children“, 2022). Address your parental fatigue by assessing your exhausting levels and creating a treatment plan that works for you. Let this guide help you find your way.

Acknowledge Your Fatigue and the Effects on Your Family

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To acknowledge means that you admit the existence of something. It’s important to be honest to yourself about how you treat yourself. Once you acknowledge your fatigue, the next step is to assess the severity of your exhaustion. Take a close look at your everyday life and try to rate your productivity and overall happiness. A few other things to examine when assessing your fatigue could include:

Your sleep quality

Your level of physical activity

Your time spent accomplishing tasks and parenting responsibilities

As a parent, it is also important to see how your exhaustion is affecting your family. Be open and honest with your partner and children so you can gauge the following points:

Your child’s happiness

Your marital satisfaction

Your family’s overall burden

Create a Beneficial Treatment Plan

Once you understand the extent of your fatigue, you will have an idea of how to start crafting a self-care treatment plan. While you may already know the benefits you need from your treatment, it is important to be aware of any unwanted outcomes that may arise.

There is a possibility of becoming dependent on your self-care routines or overburdening your partner and your support network. Accounting for possible pitfalls is necessary when going forward with building an effective treatment plan.

Implement Your Plan & Be Consistent

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Once you make your plan, start your plan. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s ok to make mistakes but the important thing is that you start and build consistency. Simple changes can start benefiting you immediately and even small actions like changing the decor of your home can have a positive impact on your emotional wellness. Experts state that by adding houseplants to your living space, your mood can improve and decrease your risk of illness.

One of the most important steps is to get enough sleep so you can tackle each day with a healthy body and mind. Try to take restful breaks throughout the day as well. If possible, tap into your support network to get extra parenting help when you need a breather. If you don’t have a support network of family and friends, browse around your local community to see what resources are available to aid parents with special needs children. Possible organizations are churches, hospitals, after school programs, kids clubs, and more.

Set Healthy Goals for the Future

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Another form of self-care that can treat your fatigue is setting long-term personal goals. If you have ever thought about going back to school or starting a business, taking steps toward those goals can do more good than you may realize. Having a passionate goal to pursue can invigorate and inspire you. Striving to master a new hobby can also refresh your spirit when you feel stuck in a rut.

I know being a parent to a special needs child can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. You may feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world when you factor in your work life, your spouse, your child(s) needs, and any other important obligations. Parental fatigue takes hold when you feel like you have no time for yourself, but you can overcome the challenge. By practicing some necessary self-care, you will approach your duties with a rested mind, making life much more manageable.

  • Post by Gwen Payne

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