Parents of children with special needs may feel overwhelmed or guilty about focusing on their own needs. Parental fatigue and unhappiness, however, can lead to poor health outcomes for the entire family. This article helps parents determine if they have caregiver fatigue and, if so, how to counter it.
There are different levels of exhaustion in a caregiver role depending on how much support a parent has, how long they've gone without rest, and their personal health. Parents of a child with special needs must consider a few key factors.
They need to look for symptoms of depression and anxiety. These can be emotional symptoms, such as hopelessness, or physical symptoms, such as breathlessness, difficulty sleeping, or even muscle aches. Parents need to rate their satisfaction with their marriage and parenting roles. It's important to be honest. Many parents love their family but feel unhappy due to fatigue.
Some parents of special needs children have a wide social network while others have little built-in support. There are places to turn for parents who feel overwhelmed. Some therapists and support groups specialize in parents of special needs children. Religious organizations, local gatherings, or even hobby groups, such as a reading circle or sports team, can help connect parents to a community. Online resources, such as meditation guides or friendly chat lines, can be helpful.
It's important that parents of children with special needs maintain personal development. They may take up a new hobby or rediscover an old one. Higher education is increasingly accessible, with many universities offering online courses and flexible completion dates.
A parent looking for more control over their career may consider starting their own business. Running a home-based limited liability company (LLC) provides some parents with an affordable and convenient way to start their business with lower liability, paperwork, and tax burdens. LLCs also provide flexibility for parents who may not always know when their children are likely to need additional support. Every state has different rules for registering an LLC.
There's a significant connection between clutter and stress. Taking an afternoon to reorganize the house or even taking a few minutes to put one area of the home in order can be helpful. Opening windows and adding houseplants, artificial or real, can also boost the mood in a home.
Self-care plans don't always go smoothly. Sometimes parents find the support network they have isn't equipped to take on extra responsibility, and they must expand their network. A parent may pile on extra tasks in the name of self-care but not address the root cause of their fatigue. Finding the right balance takes time, and it's important for parents to be flexible and patient as they discover what works for their families.
Caregiver fatigue doesn't go away on its own. Every parent needs rest and fulfillment. By honestly evaluating mental health and satisfaction, taking steps to build friends and pursue goals unrelated to parenting, and creating a restful home, parents of special needs children can combat fatigue and end up with more energy and care to devote to their child.
Thank you Kristin Louis for contributing this article.