Raising a child on the autism spectrum, while rewarding in so many ways, can be very stressful. You may be pursuing various therapies for your child, spending extra time working with your child’s school to advocate for educational accommodations, juggling special medical and dietary needs, and so on. Stressful situations often arise when others fail to understand or accept your child. While some parenting stress is a given (regardless of the needs of the child), parenting a child on the spectrum often involves special challenges that can exacerbate stress.
Following are seven ways to reduce your stress and cope more effectively with parenting demands.
Accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, one person might be happy to watch your child for a few hours a week while you take a break. Someone else might offer to pick up groceries for you. Depending on your situation, you may also benefit from looking into respite care. Although it may be difficult to imagine leaving your child in someone else’s care, taking a break is often one of the best things you can do for both yourself and your child. Visit our Resources page to find respite providers in Colorado Springs.
Don’t give in to guilt. Parental guilt is normal – it seems to come with the territory. When you’re parenting a child on the spectrum, it can be compounded because you feel like you could always be doing more for your child. Ditch the guilt and recognize that you’re likely doing the best you can at any given time.
Get informed. There are many local and national autism support organizations that provide information about autism as well as resources available. The Autism Society, for example, offers the “Living with Autism” series free of charge which covers a number of helpful topics pertaining to parenting a child on the spectrum.
Join a support group. A support group can provide much-needed encouragement as well as connections with other parents of kids on the spectrum for information sharing and support. It can also be a great place to make new friends – for both you and your child! Visit our Support Groups page for more information about our various support groups.
Stay connected. Social isolation is a problem for many families with kids on the spectrum. Make an effort to keep in touch with family and friends. Set aside time each week for connecting with supportive people in your life, even if it’s just a phone call or a walk with a friend.
Make time for yourself. Just as important as staying connected to others is making time for yourself. Even if you can only find 15 minutes a day to do something just for you, do it. Spend that time on something that truly restores you – whether it’s curling up with a cup of tea and a good book or playing with the dog. Schedule your “me time” for the same time every day if possible so that it becomes a habit.
Commit to staying healthy. Find time to be physically active on most days of the week – start exercising with your child if possible, so you both benefit! Eat a healthy diet, drink several glasses of water a day, and don’t neglect your need for a good night’s sleep. This is advice we’ve all heard a million times, but it can truly make all the difference.
Our team of volunteers here at Autism & Asperger Connections includes many parents of kids on the spectrum, as well as autistic adults. We understand the ups and downs of parenting a child on the spectrum, and we’re here to help. If you need support, contact us today!