Self Care For Sensory Processing Disorder Parents 

I want to start by saying "I see you" I know how hard it is to be a parent to a child who has special needs. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world and with so many extra responsibilities and stress on us it can be extremely challenging to find the time and energy for ourselves to have the self-care we so desperately deserve and need. Self-care can be anything that helps you improve yourself emotionally, physically or mentally. 

Between fighting for services, paperwork, intense meltdowns, therapy appointments, school IEP meetings, meals, housework and taking care of our kids, that doesn't leave much time for parents to just be themselves or enjoy the things we once did. Taking 15-20 minutes each day for yourself can improve your patience and your parenting abilities.  

parents resting sleeping in bed with child Self Care For Sensory Processing Disorder Parents

Special needs parents need more self care and breaks away from our children than other parents, yet it is the hardest for us to find the time or be able to achieve because we trust a very small amount of people in our lives to care for our children. It is hard to trust others to provide the care for our children that we do and when it is bedtime we are absolutely burned out and exhausted. 

Several years ago, I felt like I had hit parental rock bottom. I crashed and burned. I had absolutely nothing left to give. I had another special needs mom tell me something that has always stayed with me, and I am unsure if you have ever heard about it, so I wanted to share. She told me to think of special needs parenting as if I were in a plane that was going down. When a plane is going down, the masks drop down, the flight attendant tells you that you have to put your mask on before you help anyone else. Special needs parenting is the same. You need to put your mask on first or you can't help anyone else. 

When it comes to parenting a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or any other special needs it is essential to take care of us first. We truly cannot serve from an empty vessel. You are like a car, and you can only run on empty for so long. You deserve premium fuel! 

You were you before you had children. YOU still need to be YOU sometimes! I cannot always be Mom because I have needs and wants too. You do too! It is not selfish, it's crucial that you do this for yourself and for your children too. Self-care does not mean that you are choosing yourself over someone you love, it means you are choosing to love yourself and are being mindful to your own needs and wants. 

We have to fill our own cup because if we keep giving and doing then there's nothing else to give to ourselves. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Each day make small goals to do things for yourself to keep filling up your cup. The more you fill your cup, the happier you and your children will be. Self-care doesn't always require a babysitter or a lot of time. Self-care can be ten minutes to read some of the novel you have been avoiding or twenty minutes to shave your legs. 

Self-care is going to look different for us all because some parents have access to respite services so they're able to get some alone time, some parents have family who help watch their children to give them breaks but some parents are single parents with no outside help for their child so their self-care will look different. Remember to always do what works for your family and what will make you happy as a parent. 

Do not ever allow anyone to make you believe that you can't or shouldn't do things for yourself because you are a parent. You have to make yourself a priority too. All jobs have rewards. When someone is working at a full-time job, they are paid. This is your job. This is your payment to yourself. 

I know firsthand that doing the things you love and enjoy most can be very difficult because as a special needs parent we have so many other responsibilities that we put everything and everyone else before ourselves. It can take a lot of discipline to do the things we love but it should always be a priority. We are always occupied making sure that our children are happy and living positive lives full of opportunities as other children in the community that we often neglect ourselves. Doing more of the things we love and enjoy will help us reset, recharge and ultimately make us happier, balanced and relaxed which then helps us parent better with more patience. 

Some special needs parents have neglected their self-care and themselves for so long that they're reading this and asking themselves, what do I love? What do I enjoy doing? What are activities that I could do each day to bring myself more happiness? What will help me reset and recharge? You are not the only one who is thinking this and that is why it is so important for you to read this. I am so grateful that you stumbled upon this reminder to yourself. A visual list can help us to determine what our self-care will look like and what we need to recharge. Make a list for yourself. 

I recently seen a meme on Facebook and it said something like " You don't forget to charge your cell phone and then panic when it is on empty and run quickly to plug it in so why don't you do that for yourself?" That's relatable right? You are a parent, an advocate and a fierce protector. You have to keep your battery charged to keep fighting the fight. That takes unbelievable strength. You need to keep your battery charged too. 

Seeking support online or within your own community is so important for yourself care. Finding other parents who are struggling and experiencing what you are each day with your children will help you so much on your journey. There's no better feeling as a special needs parent than finding a friend who "gets it". Those parents that you will find, they will become your tribe. They will cheer you and your child on when you accomplish goals, and they will celebrate your success. They can advise you on your current struggles as a parent, ease your anxieties, give you suggestions to help you and your child along the way. You will make friendships that will last a lifetime. You will feel validated, connected and supported. 

I know between your child's busy therapy schedule and those extracurricular activities that things can get extremely busy and overwhelming, but it is okay to seek therapy for yourself too. Sometimes, speaking to a professional allows us to talk about it, cry and feel heard. It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to have your own therapist. You are going through a lot. We all need to be heard. They will help you find ways to ease your anxieties, give you a safe place to talk or cry. A professional therapist could be your own personal cheerleader that would coach you along the way when you're struggling most. 

Reach out for community support and respite services. There can be waiting lists for respite but if things are getting too overwhelming for you, they can generally give you some type of relief to start, even if it is just for a few hours at a time. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Some families are extremely blessed to have a family full of support and family members who are willing to babysit to give parents a break. Ask a close friend that you trust. Let those who are in your life know how you are feeling because sometimes they don't know or understand. Getting a break away for one night a month or only a few hours every couple weeks can really make a difference. Every special needs parent will be faced with different challenges each day, some harder than others and what we all require for a break will be different. 

If you are not getting a break, then respite services could be a very beneficial program for your family. I know you may feel like you have to do this all alone by yourself or it is your responsibility, but it is okay to ask for help when you need it. That is why these services are available. Don't feel guilty for needing a break. You have worked very hard and deserve a break. I have had access to respite services in the past and it was honestly the best thing that I ever did for myself and my daughter. She was taken care of by an experienced trained professional. They would take her out in our community to do fun activities. I got to have time to myself which made me feel ready and replenished to start a new week. 

Taking care of a child who has special needs can be difficult for your relationships and can often put a strain on your marriage. Taking a break together as a couple could be exactly what you both need to recharge and work better together. A break together could just be a night away to have a dinner together, catch up on some much-needed sleep or breakfast in bed. Taking a break together can help you connect and be on the same page. There are serious consequences to parental burn out when raising special needs children. Parental burn out can put parents at risk due to the high stress environment and lead to serious health issues. When was the last time you went out on a date night for dinner or met up with your friends for a movie? 

I wanted to write this because I see the struggle that parents post each day. I feel it in their words. I have been there. I was a single Mom with two special needs children. I was so burned out that I felt like I couldn't go on another day. I failed to take care of myself. 

Your child needs you. You need to take care of yourself too. They say "it takes a village to raise a child" and they're right. Lean on those around you and take advantage of services that are offered in your community. 

Be kind and forgiving to yourself. Remember to stay hydrated and get enough exercise. 

It is time to love yourself too. It is time that you recharge and reset.  

Symptoms of Parental Burnout 

- feeling sick, headaches or not feeing well
- isolated from family/friends and often cancelling plans
- inability to take a break, sleep and feeling exhausted
- brain fog and not thinking as clearly as you used too
- roller coaster of emotions, feeling sad, happy, hopeless or angry
- constantly worried about your child, their future and questioning yourself
- you struggle to find babysitters or respite to help you with your child
- always feeling overwhelmed and unable to accomplish all you need too
- unable to tend to your own self care
- feeling anxious and not able to relax
- you no longer have special interests, hobbies and put yourself last
- you judge yourself, have low self-esteem, place unrealistic expectations on yourself and blame yourself (it is not your fault)
- you have no off switch and are feeling extremely depleted

100 Self Care Ideas For Parents

1. Go for a walk around your neighborhood 

2. Invite a friend over for coffee 

3. Read a chapter out of your current novel 

4. Put your make up on 

5. Color in a coloring book 

6. Go for a manicure 

7. Treat yourself to a massage 

8. Take a jog through a park 

9. Shave your legs

10. Listen to music 

11. Practice mindful breathing 

12. Hire a cleaner to help with housework 

13. Style your hair

14. Buy yourself something  

15. Eat a healthy snack 

16. Sing a song you love 

17. Yoga 

18. Write in a journal 

19. Join a class or course 

20. Go for a pedicure

21. Bake your favourite cookies 

22. Dance 

23. Make jewelry 

24. Phone a friend 

25. Gardening 

26. Cry it out  

27. Write in a gratitude journal  

28. Paint a picture 

29. Therapy 

30. Watch a TV show you enjoy 

31. Order delivery and take a cooking break

32. Home decor 

33. Learn a new hobby

34. Start a blog 

35. Go for a hair cut 

36. Use a facial mask 

37. Bubble bath with bath bombs 

38. Movie night 

39. Turn off your phone 

40. Make crafts 

41. Rest or get some much needed sleep

42. Buy a new outfit 

43. Walk on the beach 

44. A night out with friends 

45. Meditate

46. Listen to a podcast 

47. Burn a candle 

48. A glass of wine or incense  

49. Experience something new in your city 

50. Medical and health appointments

51. Go to the gym 

52. Take some selfies of yourself 

53. Positive self-talk 

54. Volunteer 

55. Healthy boundaries 

56. Visit a relative 

57. Declutter 

58. Tell someone a joke

59. Learn something new 

60. Listen to nature sounds

61. Set goals 

62. Play with therapeutic putty

63. Go swimming

64. Do something nice for someone else

65. Play a board game 

66. Cuddle a pet 

67.  Learn to say no  

68. Do something you're good at 

69. Draw 

70. Prayer 

71. Knit, sew or crochet 

72. Turn on an essential oil diffuser 

73. A day with no plans or appointments

74. Read daily affirmations 

75. Acupuncture 

76. Watch a funny movie and laugh 

77. Scrapbooking your favorite photos

78. Positive social media 

79. Go for a bike ride 

80. Listen to audio book

81. Play a video game 

82. Skin care routine

83. Start a bucket list 

84. Create a thankful jar 

85. Join a book club or social group

86. Give someone you love a hug

87. Let go of something

88. Lay in the grass in the sunshine 

89. Watch the stars in the dark 

90. Go for a drive 

91. Buy yourself flowers 

92. Make a zen sensory bottle 

93. Tell yourself "I love you" in the mirror

94. Take yourself on a date 

95. Sit outside and listen to the birds 

96. Write a letter 

97. Wrap up in a cozy blanket 

98. Take a long shower

99. Read a magazine 

100. Make a vision board

Parental Depression

- low self-esteem
- feelings of hopelessness
- fatigue or low energy
- social isolation
- feeling anger, denial or hurt
- unable to handle child’s behaviors
- feeling responsible for child’s diagnosis
- not sleeping or sleeping too much
- feeling inadequate as a parent
- poor concentration
- feeling loss or grief
- poor appetite or increased appetite
- memory issues or distractibility
- feeling guilty for pursuing interests
- information overload
- difficulty coping
- increased anxiety and worry
- difficulty making decisions
- very little or no time for themselves
- loss of interest in activities

I often spend my time wondering if I am doing this right. At some point I need to just remind myself that I'm doing my best. That is enough.  ~ Unknown

Don't let others who don't understand your child's struggles, make you doubt your parenting.  ~ Unknown 

Give yourself the same care and attention that you give others and watch yourself bloom  ~ Unknown 

Special needs parenting can be really tough. Most could never do what you do each day. Don't be so hard on yourself. Be strong. Be brave. You can do this. You are doing a great job. I see you. ~ Unknown 

Dear Special Needs Parent, I didn't mean to interrupt your scrolling but I wanted to tell you that you are doing a great job! You are strong. You are brave. You are valuable. You are needed. You are beautiful. You are not alone and never forget that. ~ Unknown

I hope you find time and space to rest and recharge, I hope you know you're deserving of it. And in a world which tells us that being busy and "productive" is the goal, I hope you know rest is not indulgent. It is a necessity.  ~ Unknown  

Sometimes, it's our own love that we need the most, and first. Make yourself a priority. ~ Unknown 

When parenting a child with special needs, the need for self-care even greater and is twice as challenging as for other parents to get. ~ Unknown 

Here are some more helpful Sensory Processing Disorder Resources

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional.

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