I am getting ready to travel a lot this month and I was thinking about the whole (boring, but necessary) procedure that happens before you fly and I was thinking how brilliant that information really is! Before takeoff, you buckle your seat belt and listen to the flight attendant review emergency procedures. You hear that if the oxygen masks drop, you should adjust your own before assisting your child. It's just like that on this long journey for us parents of children who struggle. We must absolutely care for ourselves before we can REALLY care for our children in the everyday moments of life!
Self-care, however, tends to be last on our list of to-dos and there never seems to be any remaining energy to tackle it. Most parents say that it is easier said than done. I agree! It is difficult to not to give endlessly to others - especially our children. There is always a worry that if you don't keep on top of things they will regress or all heck will break loose.
Parenting a hurt child is hard! Lots of times we question whether we can do the job - whether we are meant to be this child's parent. You can do the job; you have to claim what is yours, move it and spend time taking care of you too! I have to tell you I personally am so much more INTENTIONAL when I take time to do the things that take care of ME!
Also, self-care really models a sense of self-esteem for your children, spouse and other close relationships. It's about balancing your needs with the needs of your child and intentionally ensuring the connection stays in place even when you take care of you!
Here are some helpful ideas.
1) Exercise daily. I am not great at this, but when I do it I am a different person. Exercise is so essential in relieving everyday stress. Do it alone or include your child...it will be a benefit for both of you.
2) Get a Project. Sorting clothes at Goodwill or serving soup at a shelter. Sometimes it is hard to see progress on our journey; help someone else out to help you see your impact. It is empowering!
3) Take classes. Pay for a course and go. Fun, creative classes as well as those that equip you with new knowledge and techniques to apply in your everyday life. Being inspired is truly energizing.
4) Listen to soothing music. Whether it is by just turning it up loud in the car, dancing to it in the kitchen or just plugging in some headphones and listening to Mozart, music is brain organizing.
5) Talk to someone. When your child has special needs you tend to spend all your time thinking and planning to stay ahead. You need to talk to someone that gets it...someone who has walked your same path.
6) Trade time. Find another family who is walking this path and trade childcare with them. Agree on what you'd like it to look like and enjoy some peace. If you don't know another family, then groom a babysitter to do "it" the way your child needs "it" done. Educate them, pay them well, have their favorite snacks and keep your time away short - but get some time alone.
7) Fight to find the good. When we are able to find the good even when things are far from where we'd like them to be, we can continue to have HOPE. With hope we have the energy and stamina it takes to keep moving forward toward healing!
When you find the time to care for yourself, you will see your family’s spirits soar. Buckle up ladies and gentlemen, we are about to take off!