Self Care in a Pandemic for the Special Needs Parents

The one thing I often half joke about is that T can have a full blown meltdown without consequences, while us adults have to be more dignified about our emotions.

Well, midway through this week, I had a grown up meltdown. My bottled up stress of the pressure to keep up T’s schooling, my work, to deal with T’s meltdowns and regression around simple things like potty training burst open like a dam wall.

I said some things that should’ve been left unsaid and retreated to my room for the evening and told the hubby he’s on his own.

The one thing only a special needs parent will truly understand is how hard parenting a special needs child is. Every victory is celebrated and every struggle is emotionally, mentally and physically taxing.

I’m a big proponent of self care and have always made time for it. But in a pandemic, self care takes on a new meaning and challenge when your physical world has significantly shrunk; ditto your time and capacity for personal time.

Even though it’s been seven weeks in isolation and I don’t have all the answers figured out, here are a few ways I’m thinking about self care:

  • Make Time for Yourself – As hard as it is, I try to carve out time in each day for myself. It could be as simple as retreating to my room for peace and quiet on my phone, to go for a walk by myself, or to do groceries or to the dollar store to find supplies for the coming week.
  • Be Forgiving of Yourself – These are anything but normal times, and the faster one accepts that, the pressure to get it all right can lighten.
  • Try to Find Laughter – I found this video, through a parenting webinar, of a mother of four losing her shit over distance schooling her kids. And it made me feel better just laughing with tears coming down my eyes of someone else suffering a worse fate than I am. We are in this together, parents!
  • Find Exercise or a Hobby – I miss the gym and I wish I had not thrown out my two free weights when we were decluttering before our move. But I find other ways to exercise, like going for walks with T. I also try to keep busy with hobbies like cooking.
  • Rest, rest, rest – In this pandemic, I feel like every minute requires two minutes worth of energy, because that’s how much is being demanded of working parents. So I make sure to get lots of sleep and nap during the weekends. It helps reset me for the next day.
  • Leverage this Gift of Time – Work on a home project that you’ve never had the time to do to help take your mind off things. We spent this weekend putting up photos, finally, one year after moving into our home. It was nice to take a walk down memory lane, revisiting photos of furry friends no longer with us that have been sitting in storage and caked in the dust for the last year.
  • Find Something to be Grateful For – As hard as it feels to do this on some days, expressing gratitude helps re-focus and re-centre me. My family is healthy, I’m still employed, I have amazing family, friends and colleagues, T’s teachers have been superb supports, T is making daily progress despite driving me up the wall. Once I start listing these things in my mind, I find a calmness sweeps over me.

To all parents and non-parents – special needs or otherwise – this is a very hard and challenging time. I’m not even sure if there’s an end in sight yet. So I hope everyone continues to take good care and stay well.

It was nice to spend time putting up family photos this past weekend.

2 thoughts on “Self Care in a Pandemic for the Special Needs Parents

  1. Really good points! Poor D has had some terrible meltdowns lately. Always one a weekend and they last for 1-2 hours. Really hard on all of us and to cope – we all start yelling at each other. It is so important to remember to take care of ourselves so we can take care of each other. Good points!

    1. I’m so sorry for D’s meltdowns and stress in your home. It’s hard not to lose it and then it’s hard to not feel horrible about it afterwards. A good reminder this is not normal times and to be kind to ourselves too. Hang in there to you and your family! 🙂

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