Creating a Self-Care Treatment Plan for Parents of Children With Special Needs
According to research, parents of children with special needs are more likely to experience high rates of parental fatigue than other parents. Here are some steps and resources to help you understand your level of fatigue and create a self-care treatment plan.
Assess Your Fatigue Level
Parental fatigue is a state of sustained and overwhelming exhaustion that is not helped by rest. The first part of assessing your fatigue level is recognizing the signs. Evaluate your sleep levels, marital satisfaction and mental health status. Parents with young children often feel physically exhausted, while those with teens and adolescents tend to experience more emotional weariness. Other signs include distancing yourself from your children and a decrease in parental satisfaction.
Talk About Your Fatigue
Obviously, ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. On the other hand, talking about parental fatigue can be extremely cathartic and beneficial. Consider including therapy sessions or meetings with support groups in your treatment plan.
Evaluate Your Parental Satisfaction
Parental satisfaction is a measure of how you feel about your role as a parent. People who experience low levels of satisfaction are more likely to experience psychological distress related to parenting. While you can get a general idea of your level of parental satisfaction through self-reflection, it may be helpful to have an assessment done by a licensed mental health professional.
Monitor Your Sleep Quality
Many parents of children with special needs experience poor sleep quality which can contribute to fatigue. A variety of sleep trackers are available that can help you get a general idea of how many hours of sleep you are getting; however, the data about sleep quality may not be accurate. For a more accurate analysis, you may want to discuss the data with your doctor. If your doctor believes sleep quality is an issue, a sleep study may be ordered for further analysis.
You can also improve your sleep – and your overall wellness – by trying to consciously improve the positivity in your household. Reduce clutter as well as self-criticism. Add some plants or soothing artwork. Try to make time for exercise and healthy eating, since that in turn will increase your overall energy, reduce stress, and make it easier to sleep. Perhaps even take up meditation!
Be Aware of Signs of Depression and Anxiety
Warning signs of anxiety and depression include avoiding things you used to enjoy, increased heart rate, shakiness, racing thoughts, chest tightness, isolation, feelings of sadness and frequent negative thoughts. Your self-care plan can help you manage these symptoms, but be careful about undertreating mental health conditions. If you have signs of depression or anxiety, consider consulting with a doctor or mental health professional. Making small changes to your home environment, such as adding some houseplants or decluttering your home, may also help.
Seek Opportunities for Growth
Working on your personal growth can help you reframe your perspective. Consider going back to school, pursuing a new hobby or starting your own business. If you decide to start a business, you can avoid adding to your stress by organizing it as a limited liability company. This can save money on taxes, reduce paperwork and protect your personal assets. The rules for forming an LLC vary by state, so do your research before you begin.
If you decide to go back to school, investigate online options. A college degree can be a good launching point for your career or help you gain the skills you need to run a successful business. Obtaining your degree online allows you to complete an academic program from an accredited institution at your own pace. The ability to pursue your courses around your schedule makes it easier to take care of your children and continue to work while completing your education.
Being a parent is a tough job. Being a parent of a child with special needs can be even tougher. Parental fatigue is a common problem that you don't have to live with. Working with your doctor or mental health professional to create a self-care plan can help.
Center of Development Pediatric Therapies offers comprehensive occupational, physical, speech and language, feeding and behavior therapies all in one center. Call (931) 372-2567 to arrange an appointment.
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