Sensory Processing Disorder Parental Burnout
Parental burnout is not your fault. If you are reading this, you probably know how parental burnout feels; you are wondering if you have parental burnout or how you can help yourself or someone else with parental burnout. 

Parenting is the hardest job in the world and you have a child with additional needs so parenting can be even more challenging for you. 

Parental burnout is something we just don't talk about enough. We need to talk about it more without feeling guilt or shame. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to seek help. It is okay to admit that you are struggling. You are not alone. 


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 


Parental burnout is caused from tending to our children's needs so much that we forget about our own needs and wants. Parental burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. It is chronic exposure to parental stress due to excessive demands we place on ourselves as parents and it can lead to emotionally distancing ourselves from our children and can decrease self fulfillment. Burnout is a psychological syndrome experienced by parents and caregivers. 

You can take care of you, think of you, enjoy things for yourself and still be an amazing parent without feeling guilt. 

Special needs parents are often so busy with appointments, meetings and our daily routine with our children that we feel that we don't have enough time in our day to give to ourselves. Some parents have more severe situations at home with their children than others and they have children who have constant meltdowns or severe behavioral challenges; this can cause parental burnout. 

Parents are always researching symptoms, diagnosis and treatments. It leaves very little time for us. We need to make time for our own self care. 

Self care can be very small things throughout the day that we do for ourselves and it is absolutely essential. 


Just because you have days when you are overwhelmed, doesn't mean that you are a bad parent. It's okay to cry and it's okay to need a break. You are doing amazing.

I want you to know that you truly are so strong and brave. I know it is hard. I know each day you feel like you hardly have the strength to move on to the next day but you are doing great! 

I see you. I know how hard it is to be a parent to a child who has additional needs because you have so many extra responsibilities and stress. 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. 


Parental burnout is something that I have experienced. I know how it feels to be utterly exhausted; I wasn't sleeping, I barley had time to eat properly, I worked full time, I didn't do anything for myself, my mental health was extremely depleted and I didn't feel very good about myself or my parenting abilities. I don't often talk about much about my experience as a special needs parent but I crashed and I crashed so badly. 

I want to talk about this more because I want all parents who have children with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Autism or any additional needs to feel supported and to know different ways to prevent parental burnout and recognize the signs. 

I want you to know that you are not alone. This is very real. I struggled a lot as a parent. Both of my children had extremely high needs. I was a single mother and I couldn't keep up with all of my responsibilities. My children are grown up now and if I am being honest, at times I still feel burnout. I made myself a list that I found essential to my well being and I wanted to share it with you because I know there's so many of you who are feeling parental burnout too. We don't have to feel this alone. We don't have to feel shameful or hide it. We don't need to feel guilty. 


Signs & Symptoms Of Parental Burnout For Sensory Processing Disorder Parents 

-  often feeling sick, experiencing headaches or not feeing well

-  feeling isolated from family or friends

- often cancelling plans 
 
-  inability to take a break, rest or sleep

- feeling exhausted

- not thinking clearly as you used too or brain fog

- having a roller coaster of emotions; feeling sad, happy, hopeless, angry etc.

- constantly worrying about your child and their future

- questioning yourself

- struggling to find family, baby sitters or respite to help you with your child

- always feeling overwhelmed


- struggling to find family, baby sitters or respite to help you with your child

- always feeling overwhelmed

- unable to accomplish all you need to

- feeling anxious and not able to be calm or relaxed

- you no longer have special interests or hobbies

- putting yourself last

- judging or blaming yourself  (it is not your fault) 

- having low self esteem or placing unrealistic expectations on yourself 

- unable to tend to your own self care and needs

- you have no off switch and are feeling extremely depleted


Why Do We Feel Parental Burnout
We start to feel parental burnout when we spread ourselves too thin by people pleasing, accepting too much responsibility, not setting healthy boundaries and not communicating our needs. Here are some examples of what causes parental burnout; 

- having limited resources 

- lacking support from friends or family

- lacking services for ourselves and our children

- not setting healthy boundaries 

- placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves 

- having limited knowledge 

- not communicating our needs and wants

- people pleasing 

- not maintaining a routine



Who is at risk for Parental Burnout
Parents and caregivers are at risk of feeling parental burnout but it doesn't target one specific type of parent or caregiver. Here are some examples of who is at risk; 

- special needs parents/caregivers

- single parents/caregivers

- younger parents/caregivers

- parents/caregivers of younger children 

- working parents/caregivers 

- number of children or adults to care for

- parents/caregivers who don't have much support 

- not having services they require 



How to avoid Parental Burnout For Sensory Processing Disorder Parents 


- If your family and friends cannot assist you with babysitting, maybe you could ask if they would be willing to help you with other errands to take the weight off of you such as; grocery shopping, helping you cook meals or prepare meals ahead of schedule. Some family may be willing to help you cook meals while others may be able to help you with cleaning and house chores. 

- Research local respite services for special needs families. Depending on your child's needs and diagnosis you may qualify for respite services. This is like a babysitter but to help parents who require a specialized trained caregiver. Speak to your social worker or family doctor about resources that may be available for you and your child. Some agencies offer a few hours while others have weekends or overnight services available. 

- Join parent support groups for parents who have children with Sensory Processing Disorder. This is an opportunity to connect with other parents who understand what you are experiencing with your child. You can receive great advice for what has worked for other parents and support too. Parent support groups are always a great resource to learn about services and make some new friends. You could make new friendships with other parents going through the same experiences as you are as a parent and they will understand. Parent support groups will help you feel less alone and a great way to start building your own support system. 

- Self care is so important. Self care doesn't have to be something that takes a full day, it can be ten or fifteen minutes several times throughout the day to do something for you. It has probably been a while since you have done that much self care for yourself and you may not even have any ideas for what you could do. I have made a list of 100 Self Care Ideas For Parents  to help you. 

- Take a moment to think about how you are feeling. If you are feeling depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, hopeless, or tired, please speak to your family doctor. It's okay to seek help when you are not feeling your best. This doesn't make you a bad parent or a failure, it makes you a great parent. 

- Make some adjustments on the hard days; it is okay to order dinner when you are too tired to cook, it is okay to make bedtime a little later or earlier and it is okay to let your child have more time on their tablet or watch an extra movie so that you can take a little time to recharge. Do what works for your family. 

- Talk about it. Talk to a close friend or someone in your family. If you don't have anyone to talk too you can always reach out to mental health services or your doctor. You don't have to suffer in silence. Don't feel shame or guilt. What you are feeling is common within our community. You will be connected to community resources that can offer one on one therapy sessions, social support and learn new coping skills. Talking about parental burnout openly can normalize our feelings and experiences which takes away the shame or guilt. Then it will become easier for parents to ask for help when they need it. 

- Reach out to local parenting groups. In your area there may be some local special needs parenting groups available. Meet up with other parents. Most of these services provide childcare services for your child while you attend. 

- Take mini breaks. It's unfortunate we can't fly away for a week or two to somewhere beautiful and relax. You deserve a vacation on the beach holding a fancy drink. Mini breaks are small breaks for a few minutes at a time throughout your day and can make a very big difference. Step inside your room to try a breathing activity or go to the bathroom with the door closed. Try to squeeze in more breaks throughout the day to keep you relaxed. Have compassion and kindness for yourself during your mini breaks. Take this time to remind yourself that you are doing a great job. Acknowledge that this is hard but you are doing it the best you can each day. 

When you find yourself locked in the bathroom, sobbing on the floor because you've just had enough, that does not mean you have failed as a mother. Being a mother is hard. That is not failure. That is fact. Remind yourself of that.  ~ Unknown 


How to recover from Parental Burnout For Sensory Processing Disorder Parents 

- Take a break from social media and all of the very high expectations placed on parents. Most of what you are seeing on social media isn't real. Most people on social media let you see what they want you to see. You are not seeing the full picture. This will help you with comparing your life to others and what your child is or isn't doing that someone else's child is doing. Those parents are not sharing with you their struggles or challenges. You won't see how overwhelmed they are. All parents struggle, we may just struggle differently and some can hide it better than others. 

- Teach your children how to do age appropriate chores. The smallest chores can lead up to a lot of help for you around the house. Ask your partner if you have one to help out with household chores or errands. These will be less things on your to-do list each day. A family is a team. Each person on the team gives their part to help out. 

- Parental guilt is so real and something we all feel. It is not just you. Don't sweat the small stuff. Don't compare yourself to other parents and what they are doing and how their kids are. Remind yourself often that you are doing your best and that is enough. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I am doing a great job, I am strong, I am brave, I am valuable, I am needed and I am beautiful." The parents who are always feeling guilty or feel like they're not doing enough are usually the ones who are doing everything they can or too much. Go gentle on yourself. 

- Something I have always found difficult was setting boundaries but this is something we all need to do more of to prevent burnout. The more you learn to say no, the better it will feel. You don't always have to say yes. Just because you can doesn't mean that you have too. This will prevent you from spreading yourself too thin and becoming overwhelmed. This is something I am currently working on and I know it is hard but it is becoming easier. It will become easier for you too the more you do it. 

- The expectations we place on ourselves are usually unrealistic which causes parental burnout. Try to lower some of your expectations you place on yourself. We are constantly having social media and television tell us how easy parenting is, how great everyone's children are doing in school and everything is just perfect for everyone but that's not the truth. For a parent watching, it can make us feel like we aren't doing good enough, we aren't great parents, we are doing this all wrong and it leaves us feeling defeated. The truth is, all parents struggle but rarely will you see that on television or social media. Most just hide it better than others. You are doing a great job! 

- This can be a very hard one for parents who have children with Sensory Processing Disorder but SLEEP! This is a very huge part of burnout for us because our children often don't sleep much. Sleep when they sleep. Taking little 15 minute naps or going to bed a little earlier will make a big difference. I know you think you have been doing it this long and you can keep going without sleep but we need sleep to survive. You cannot parent or think without sleep. You don't need to just survive, but thrive as a parent. Prioritize sleep over getting the things done around you.  

- Take time to stay active and exercise. This will help you think more clearly. Ask your children if they would like to join in and exercise too. You will release endorphins and your children will be burning off energy. This will help your anxiety and depression too. Start with 10 minutes and increase if you are able to for 20 minutes.  

- Have you not hung out with friends for a while? Are you feeling isolated? Is it time for you to make friends or call up a friend to reconnect? You are deserving of friends. You are deserving of time with others who are not your children or partner. We all need friends. Connecting with other parents from support groups who understand us gives us comfort knowing we aren't alone. If you can't get out to meet with a friend for coffee or dinner, then invite one over or have a chat online through a cam. If you are able to receive respite services or have a sitter then a girls night out or a guys night out may be exactly what you need. 

- Get dressed each day even if you are not going anywhere. Parents who don't work outside of the home can get a little too comfortable with being in pj's each day and we let ourselves go. We lose who we are which leads to us feeling insecure. Dress up and feel better about yourself. Buy that outfit you have been looking at for months but feel guilty about buying it for yourself. You need to feel good and looking good is the best thing we can do for ourselves. Not wearing make up anymore or painting your toes? Do it! 

- Routine is everything. As much as our kids thrive on routine, we do too! We need a routine. Plan time for you. Plan time for self care and sleep. Move things around and shift everything that needs to be done and include yourself and what you need. Create a family schedule that you can hang on the wall to organize yourself; this will also let everyone see the time you need for yourself too. You are deserving of time. Remind yourself of this. 

- Make lists. I have ADHD and making lists and reminders helps me to stay on task and not feel as forgetful. As parents to children with additional needs, we can become very forgetful because we are stressed with a lot on our minds. This will help you organize your life and stay on task reducing your daily stress. The night before, I make a to-do list of what my goals are for the next day. 

- Try to get out of your house at least once a day. The fresh air and sunshine will help you tremendously. This doesn't have to be an event that takes a full day to prepare or a day of meltdowns trying to get your child out of the house. It can be something small like being in your backyard; sitting in your pool with your children as they play, exercising with your children or sitting outside together reading a book and having a snack. Kids need sunshine in their day to sleep better. When they sleep better, we sleep better. 

- Self talk and positive thinking is absolutely essential. Shifting how we speak about ourselves, our lives and what we have to do each day will change everything. Start to pay attention to how you speak to yourself. Pay attention to how we are looking at the world around us; the negativity we think about, the anxious thoughts and the stress we think about. Change those thoughts to positive thoughts. Power of positivity. 

- Acknowledge how you are feeling. Admit to yourself that you are feeling burned out. Admit to yourself that you are feeling overwhelmed and need help. When someone asks how you are doing, don't smile and say "I'm great!" when you are not. Communicate your feelings to others. Your friends and family may not know how you are feeling and what you're going through as you are so strong and keep plowing through it all each day. Be honest with them and yourself. They cannot support you if they aren't aware of what you're feeling. 

- Get organized and clear out the clutter. A cluttered environment is a cluttered mind. This will cut down on how stimulated you are from having so much stuff around you and will allow you to relax more. It takes a lot of energy and time each day to tend to our clutter. This time can be spent better taking care of ourselves. Taking control of your things will help you gain control of your environment and reduce your stress greatly, therefore reducing how overwhelmed you are feeling.  


Mama, You were given these children - you. No one else. You were given these children because you are who they need. You have the soul that loves them even on their hard days. You have the motivation and love to give these children everything they need. You have the heart to wake up every morning and do it all over again, even when you are exhausted. You have the smile that they crave and the touch to make everything ok. You are their sunshine and their comfort. You are theirs and they are yours mama. On the days you are questioning yourself, remember: You've got this. ~ Unknown  

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

When to get help for Parental Burnout

If you are experiencing parental burnout, please don't wait too long to seek help. You don't need to reach your breaking point to receive professional help. If you are thinking you may need help, you probably do need to seek help for how you are feeling. 

When making an appointment please keep in mind that there are waiting lists at times and sometimes it can be weeks or months to see someone so don't wait until the last minute. Here are a few warning signs that you should seek professional help for parental burnout;

- feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughts 

- thoughts of harming yourself or others

- feeling detachment from your children

- overwhelmed and exhausted

- feeling worthless or hopelessness

- excessive worries about your children and yourself

- emotional, mental or physical changes

- feeling less productive

- loss of happiness being a parent

If you are feeling suicidal or having thoughts of harming yourself or others please go to your local emergency and reach out to a mental health worker for support.  If you are not sure who to contact you can always dial 911. 

If you are feeling parental burnout, you can speak to your family care physician, reach out to local mental health services for individual or group therapy or go to any emergency room.


"You will never speak to anyone more than you speak to yourself in your head, be kind to yourself." ~ Unknow 


How to support a parent who is experiencing Parental Burnout

If you know a parent suffering from burnout, there are many ways that you can support and help them through it. It is important to listen to them and be understanding. Let them share their feelings with you and ask them how you can help support them. 

Offer local resources to them. Don't make them feel bad or belittle them as it takes a lot of courage for parents to come to you about how they are feeling. Offer to help with daily tasks such as meals and cleaning. Offer to watch their children so they can attend therapy. Always show kindness. 


Mental Health & Crisis Lines

UNITED STATES 

Emergency: 911
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222
Crisis Text Line: Text “DESERVE” TO 741-741
Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)
National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Hope Line: 1-800-622-2255
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1- 800-799-7233

CANADA
Emergency: 911
Hotline: 1-888-353-2273
YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help
Crisis Services Canada: http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help













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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