At 5 years old my daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder; I still remember what it felt like to have this unanswered question answered. Having a diagnosis did not change anything aside from the fact that now we had answers, now we could figure out how to help our sweet girl, and for the first time in 5 years we felt hopeful as parents. Unfortunately though the hours-long tantrums, emotional dysregulation, staying awake all night (or is that just my kid?), and lack of danger-awareness did not stop.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, before I was a therapist, I was a mom, and then I was a mom of a child with autism. I know first-hand the toll it takes on you as a parent and the additional roles this diagnosis allows you to take; like how you suddenly become an advocate for your child in school meetings and the researcher on all things autism. Parenting is already tough and when you add on the gift of having a child with autism it can be easy to put yourself on the back burner.
Today I want to talk to you as a therapist and a mom of a child with autism about taking care of yourself. I also am going to discuss steps you can take to ensure that you have the mental and emotional space to continue giving your kid all that they deserve and require. So what can you do to prevent parenting burnout, see below:
Set aside time for yourself: this does not include hiding in the bathroom for an extra 15 minutes at the end of the day (but I don’t blame you for sneaking away). Actually take time for yourself, this can include shopping alone for 2 hours, getting a massage, or going on a date with your spouse.
Get a sitter: believe it or not there are quality child sitters out there that are capable and able to watch a child with autism. Ask for references, check the local mom groups, and reach out to behavioral centers that specialize in autism and ask for referrals.
Embrace the suck: remember that crappy days come and go, sometimes your kid may be dysregulated and the only remedy is a new day. I think any parent would do their best to try and manage the situation and it is also okay to ensure that everyone is safe and the best answer is no answer.
Have something that is YOURS: this can be a hobby, starting a collection, or a show that only you watch. You are always giving to and doing for others, take something small yourself. Therapy might even be a good option for working through and managing your stress.
I know that these things may seem silly or small, but I would bet that you often forget about your needs, let alone your wants. Hopefully when you start to find yourself wearing down you can refer to these few items to help get you back on track.
At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock, TX, we specialize in mental health services for people on the Autism spectrum as well as their loved ones.
Learn more about the Autism Counseling services we offer.
Contact us to schedule an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.