Is Parental Fatigue Weighing You Down? Tips to Help
- September 14,2022
Fighting parental fatigue is a familiar battle for parents of kids with disabilities. Between doctor appointments, insurance companies, IEPs, and behavior plans, it feels like the work of being a special needs parent never ends.
It’s normal to be tired and it’s normal to feel frustrated. But at what point does parental fatigue become a problem? Today, BabyFlix shares some insights.
Recognizing Parental Fatigue
Unaddressed parental fatigue interferes with parenting, relationships, and mental health. Consider these questions when evaluating your fatigue levels:
Parenting: How would you rate your parenting satisfaction? Do you feel effective as a parent?
Relationships: How is your marriage? Are there people you feel close to? Do you feel supported in your role as a caregiver?
Mental Health: How is your sleep quality? Are you experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety?
How to Address Parental Fatigue
Do your answers cause concern? You don’t have to feel like a super-mom or super-dad, but if you’re on the brink of burnout it’s important to do something about it. In practical terms, that means working on your:
First things first: If your mental health is suffering, talk to someone and get help. Parenting is difficult and a disability adds a whole new layer of challenges. A therapist can help you cope with stress and develop strategies to improve your self-efficacy. Finding you’re not alone in your struggles can also help. The Mom Kind has articles and resources for parents of Autistic and ADHD kids that can help shed light on some helpful coping strategies.
It’s important to maintain an identity outside of caregiving too. Friendships, hobbies, and goals are a big part of what recharges our batteries as parents. Build time for the things that fuel you into your family’s schedule and set goals for personal growth. You can even apply the same tricks you use on your kids to motivate yourself, like listing goals and checking them off as you go.
Routines & Responsibilities
Juggling everything can be exhausting — even when it comes to things you want to do. Consider how you can tweak your life to relieve some pressure. Is a late-night TV habit interfering with your sleep? Use that downtime to do something more rewarding and you may need less to feel satisfied.
Sometimes it’s responsibilities that need adjusting. Can you order groceries to your door or pay for laundry delivery to free up time? What about starting a business to give yourself a more flexible work schedule? Many self-employed parents work from home to balance work and caregiving. If you have a marketable skill like business consulting or web design, you should look into how to start an LLC and put your talents to use! This process typically takes five steps depending on which state your business is operating in.
If you’re a creative person, make time to use your creativity. Psych Central explains that art can help reduce the signs of anxiety. You could set aside “creativity time” where you either take a break, or you and your kids do art projects on your own at the same time. If you’re in the process of starting your own business, you could try a free online logo maker where you can customize your own logo.
Small victories and special memories are what empower special needs parents to persevere. The rewarding moments when you’re fully present and connecting with your child relieve the stress and exhaustion that can otherwise build up.
Look for opportunities to watch your child succeed and experience joy. One great place to start is by checking the rating of your child’s school to see if they’re in a place that’s adequately challenging and instructing them. Otherwise, getting outdoors is known to reduce stress, according to a study by Cornell University, and it also promotes social interaction and awareness in children with disabilities.
Reducing Stress where Possible
It’s hard to think of ways to reduce stress when you feel overwhelmed, so write down a few tips in your phone so you can pull them up when you need them. One idea is to spend time in nature. Research shows that being outdoors reduces anxiety, increases mood, and gets us much needed exercise and vitamin D. If you can’t make it outside, bring some of nature indoors with potted plants and nature-based art. You can even make time for a nature art project with the kids and then put that art up.
How Not to Deal with Parental Fatigue
The worst thing you can do about parental fatigue is ignore it. It’s better to incorporate balance and self-care into everyday routines than to push yourself to the point of burnout.
Avoid the urge to spend your self-care on mindless activities like watching TV or scrolling social media. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional guilty pleasure, but Very Well Family emphasizes the importance of getting a little time to yourself. Even if it feels impossible, create a personalized “you” space where the kids can’t bother you, or schedule a sitter so you can have some time out doing something you love.
Don’t wait for people to read your mind. Be specific when asking for support. Do you need help running errands, a babysitter, or someone to talk to? List the things that would make your life easier and match support people according to their skills and schedules.
If parental fatigue is weighing on you, do something about it. From more me-time to mental health support, there are steps you can take today to improve your well-being and effectiveness as a special needs parent.