You can’t pour from an empty cup!
What do you do when you have nothing left to give?
Caring for our children, additional needs or not, is the most important task we are given. When your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) it becomes even more important, the strength, love and patience needed drains you continuously. Constant top-ups are needed to keep you going. As a single parent of two children with ASD I know this! Everything can become a struggle especially if the children are having a “wobbly” day. No amount of careful planning can negate how they feel. I know myself that sometimes by the time the two children are in school (if I manage to get them there), I am exhausted, I could sleep for Wales! You know what? If that’s what I need to do, I do it. Gone are the days when I struggle to do things, I re-prioritise, sometimes today has to be cancelled. The secret is learning to not feel guilty about it. It’s built into us, our children come first, and they do to an extent but how can we be there for them if we aren’t coping ourselves. Our charges are so close to us that they can sense when we have a wobble too. Next time, watch the behaviours of your child change according to your mood. Keeping ourselves happy when we aren’t is hell, it’s tiring, we become an empty vessel, numb and we just go through the motions. I know, I’ve been there and I’m not perfect, there are still times when I am at the end of my tether and all I want to do is shut down. What we need to do though, is reboot ourselves. Allow ourselves to do exactly what we need to do to get back on an even keel. Always remember that you need to be more than OK to be able to be there 100% for your family, it is NOT selfish!
Love Bomb Yourself!
We all know how our ASD children thrive on routines, put selfcare into your routine and put it first. It could be anything from a 5 minute meditation to a spa day, coffee and a moan with friends or if you are lucky enough to have respite, that night away. If you still can’t see that you come first, think of the much quoted aeroplane scenario, the oxygen masks come down, who’s mask do you put on first? Yours! Yes, yours, you’re that important, start believing it. There has been much research into the well being of parents of children with ASD and the severity of the stress has been likened to that of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you would like to research further try this peer reviewed article to start by Weiss et al (2012).
I get a bee in my bonnet about self care, it really has changed the way I parent my two, I am calmer, less frazzled and I take things in my stride more. This coming from someone who has always lived with anxiety!
On a serious note, looking after yourself, mentally and physically is vital. Stop comparing yourself to the media’s idea of the superparent. You are super just the way you are. Your best is good enough! Look out for my list of top ten self care strategies, coming soon!
Wax, R., (2013), Sane New World, Taming the Mind
Weiss, J.A., (2012), The impact of child problem behaviors of children with ASD on parent mental health: The mediating role of acceptance and empowerment