Self-Care for Parents of Children With Autism
Parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can at times be lonely and physically, financially, and emotionally stressful. Focusing on the child with ASD can create strain on a marital relationship and create challenges for other relationships. For example, siblings of children with ASD may feel they get less attention than their brother or sister with ASD, and feel sad, confused, and resentful. In turn, meeting the needs of a child with ASD, along with balancing the demands of work and home responsibilities, can increase a parent’s risk of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress.
Caregiver stress and burnout can happen when you neglect your own needs and feel you have too many responsibilities, such as taking care of your family and holding down a job. It’s normal at times to feel angry, guilty or frustrated, but burnout can lead to health problems and clinical depression. Warning signs of burnout include:
- Persistent feelings of helpless and hopelessness
- Mental and physical exhaustion
- Changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns
- Irritability and social withdrawal
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or others
It can be difficult to ask others for help, especially if you feel you’d be shirking your responsibilities or you’re afraid to be judged by others or seen as not being capable. But even the strongest person can become overwhelmed.
Tips for self-care include the following:
- Take care of your health. Make time for regular exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, and activities that are enjoyable and relaxing. See your doctor for regular check-ups.
- Set aside time for your partner and for your other children. Find ways to keep your relationship strong. Spend one-on-one time with your other children, whether it’s engaging in a special activity or simply making time to listen to their concerns.
- Keep family and friends in your life and ask for help when you need it. Don’t isolate yourself from the supportive people in your life because you’re “too busy.” If people offer to help, be specific about what they can do. Perhaps it’s grocery shopping, meal preparation, or running an errand.
- Take one day at a time. Remember that there are things you can’t control. Your child or another family member may have a health crisis or other things may happen that throw a monkey wrench into your daily plans. Try focus on the positives whenever you can.
- Recognize and respect your own limitations. Parents are often harder on themselves than they are on anyone else. You’re not expected to be Superman or Superwoman. Let go of needing to be the perfect parent.
Harsha Autism Center provides ongoing care for children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 2-22) with autism to improve the quality of their lives. If you would like learn more about how Harsha Autism Center can help please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (812) 233-8833.