When a sweet friend wanted to know what I had for lunch, I suddenly realized the answer was nothing. I had not eaten at all. I, like many other parents of quirky kids, was so busy looking after my children’s needs that I simply forgot my own. But we cannot run on empty, we have to feed ourselves, too. We asked our panel of parents with quirky kids, “What have you done to take care of your own needs today?” Here’s their answers.
Get an advocate for your child (Kereth Harris)
Let’s cut to the chase, you know you have to take care of yourself, but how? I could tell you to drink wine and eat fancy cheeses, but you need to survive, and more importantly fight for your child. Children with additional needs have complex issues and often you may not have all the answers or are tired of fighting the same cause.
I found it very useful with my son to use an advocate when the school wasn’t listening. We went in together, but she spoke. When looking for an advocate, find someone you trust, and who has a depth of knowledge about your child’s needs. For us, our advocate really got the school to look at how they were treating my son. When they got it that things weren’t right for him, the dialogue changed. That change happened because my impartial, intelligent, and strong friend stepped in to share the load. It takes communities to raise children, including quirky kids.
A few small changes and minutes is all you need (Lesley Scott)
Self-care usually appears way down on the list of priorities for parents of special needs children. While ensuring that personal wellbeing is a priority for our kids, we fail to adopt that approach in our own lives. We forget that an investment in self-care makes it easier for us to give our kids the best of ourselves.
You may think that large chunks of time or additional expenses are required to practice self-care, but this does not have to be the case (although if you can afford and organize a night away or a day at the spa that is great too). Making a few small changes or taking a few minutes for yourself each day can make a big difference.
These suggestions may help you along the road to better self-care:
Get that routine in place
Routine minimizes chaos. Most importantly, be firm about a bedtime routine for your child. Consistency is important and helps you make sure that you get some “me” time in the evening to be alone with your partner, take a long bath, or read your favorite book.
Bedtime (yours, not theirs)
Get enough sleep! Taking the time to rest and recharge is a vital component of self-care.
Visit your friends
Having a quirky kid can be very isolating (intentionally or inadvertently). Having friends to talk to and laugh with is a wonderful stress reliever and a reminder that you are also important. If your old friends no longer fit your lifestyle, look for meaningful relationships with people who can relate to where you are currently at, even online.
Exercise is shown to have great mood boosting benefits as well as being good for your physical health. If you can’t exercise out of the house, turn up your favorite songs and get dancing, or find a quiet space for yoga, calisthenics or your favorite stretches.
Consider a hobby
Whether it’s drawing, knitting, or baking cookies, finding time to undertake a task purely for the pleasure it provides is a great way of reminding you of who you are.
Reassess your needs regularly, as they will change over time, but never forget that you are important and deserve a bit of personal TLC.
Food, exercise and quiet time (Amanda Whittington)
My time, money, and energy are in limited supply, just like yours. But over the past few years, I have figured out a few critical things that I need to keep myself fueled and healthy.
- The first is healthy eating–I try to stick to a mostly low carb diet (think pseudo-Paleo, if you must). I load up on plenty of fresh greens and healthy proteins too. This helps to keep my energy levels up all day.
- Several days a week, I get up early and exercise so that I can stay physically strong enough to care for my children’s growing needs. Exercise also brings out feel-good endorphins that help me combat stress and feel happier throughout the day.
- Lastly, I work hard to find a little quiet time. Even if it means I let my children play on their tablets in bed for half an hour, I need to find some time where the noise level in my home is lower and I can think, read, watch TV, or just dream, all by myself. This gives me the physical and emotional energy I need to be my child’s best advocate.
Take care of the spiritual, physical and emotional (Tiffany Cook)
As a parent of 3 children (one of whom is autistic), I know that things can go from a calm or, at least, organized chaos to a less than perfect storm raging out of control in the blink of an eye. Taking care of myself is the last to-do item on my mind. However, I am learning that it needs to be at the top of my list.
Consequently, I have set out to develop (and am constantly improving upon) a self-care routine that addresses 3 areas of my life: spiritual, physical, and emotional. The routine includes daily readings in the Bible, a high protein breakfast, a good cup of coffee – all before my children get out of bed in the morning. I have also found that having techniques or outlets for relieving moments of high stress that can happen throughout the day can preserve one’s sanity.