Preventing Parent Burnout
Meeting the emotional challenges of caring for children with ASD
Parenting is hard work, and parenting a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder is exponentially harder. You’re almost certainly putting in more effort than any other mom or dad you know, yet your kid may still be at risk, struggling, or making less progress than her peers. This raises a crucial question: How can you keep going without becoming exhausted?
Here are 7 ideas for how to do that.
Make a list of your child’s core strengths. Write down her good qualities, even if they haven’t been visible lately. Find ways to talk about these with your partner, your friends, and your child.
Recall fun and funny times. Telling a humorous family incident or recounting a tale of your own foibles can help everyone feel connected. Silly baby stories, grade school antics, and memories of times you embarrassed yourself are great ways to get started laughing … and remembering that good times do happen.
Practice simple acts of kindness. When using words is difficult, we can often still get through with gestures. Think back to what “said love” to her when she was little, or what used to soothe him when he was upset.
Frame your frustration as a puzzle to be solved. It may help to remind yourself that not-knowing how to make things better doesn’t mean you’re inadequate – it simply means you haven’t figured it out yet. Read up on your child’s diagnosis, and be utterly frank with your child’s therapist about your need to learn better ways to handle your child’s outbursts or irritability or anxiety attacks. Tackling this as a learning-curve problem alleviates a great deal of insecurity, and makes it easier to connect with the love you have for your child.
Notice the bright spots. Write down one positive thing that happened every day, even if you have to hunt for the distant glimmer of light. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel when you take time to do this. Go a step further and let your child know what you’ve observed, applauding her effort or catching her doing something good.
Connect with others. Though getting tired isn’t optional, the added burden of secrecy is. Opening up about what you’re going through is likely to increase your emotional bandwidth significantly, giving you a much-needed infusion of energy. Confide in trusted friends, or find a support group for parents facing similar challenges (locally or on social media) to decrease your sense of isolation.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Set aside time to face your feelings over what your child’s illness has done to him, to you, and to family life. Give yourself permission to grieve what you have lost. You are not a bad parent for resenting how your child’s irritability or outbursts impact you; it’s possible to love your child and hate the effects of his illness at the same time. The key is to find healthy ways to process what you feel.
At , we believe that that having an informed parent –in an effort to empower him and his family– is the only way to for us to deliver optimal healthcare. Visit our website to find out more about our services and be a part of an incredible ASD support community. You are not alone!