In the midst of a global pandemic, many parents are trying to navigate through a new normal, including taking on the roles of teacher and daycare provider within their homes. Furthermore, parents of special needs children must find workarounds to provide the best possible care since many of the services their children need are not available right now.
While some days are better than others, even the best of parents will have bad days. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of little reminders to provide help for special needs parents who may be having a bad day. We hope this list will help you put aside the problems you are having and focus on the joy that your child brings to the world.
When bad days happen, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is easy to feel as though things will never get better. Worse, once you start letting those thoughts into your head, they have a way of taking over and making everything feel worse than it did before. Suddenly, all of the bad days come rushing back and you relitigate every decision you made in the past. In the COVID-19 era, it can be even more difficult as there is no certainty as to when things will return back to “normal”. This is the point where you have to break the cycle. Instead of thinking of all those bad days and concluding that there are simply more bad days to come, remember that those bad days ended.
When things feel overwhelmingly stressful don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking about all of the bad times. Allow yourself to remember all of the good times that came after. Know that this bad day too will come to an end.
Autism families are under a lot of pressure. When things are going poorly, that pressure can sometimes feel like too much. When that happens, it is a perfectly natural reaction to cry. When you do, you may feel guilty, as though crying means that you cannot handle the stress. What you need to remember is that we don’t cry because we can’t handle the stress, crying is one of the ways that we are designed to handle stress. Sometimes when things get to be a little too much, a good cry makes a fantastic reset button that gets you going again.
Special needs parents can feel as though the weight of the world is on their shoulders. You have a very difficult and important responsibility; one that must be taken very seriously. It can be easy to forget under the burden of that responsibility that it is okay to laugh. Finding the humor in a stressful situation doesn’t mean that you do not take the situation seriously or that you are slacking in your responsibilities. It simply means that you are coping with that stress using the best tool that humans have at their disposal. Laughing is like a vent that releases excess steam. Without that vent, you’ll build up too much pressure and explode. Sometimes, laughter really is the best medicine.
In keeping with the theme of feeling overburdened by responsibilities, it can sometimes feel as though taking a break is avoiding those responsibilities. Getting help is important for all parents, but help for autism parents is even more important. Your workload is stronger and more stress-inducing. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to recharge your batteries so that you can give your child the full attention they deserve when you come back. It may be difficult to find sources that allow you to take that much-needed break right now. Give your local We Rock the Spectrum a call for more information on the services that they have available during this time. Many of our locations are offering private facility rental and break time options for essential workers.
For our Southern California families, we can even bring the break time right to your doorstep! With the We Rock on Wheels bus, our amazing staff will bring the sensory play to you. Our bus offers many of the great amenities that our brick-and-mortar facilities have so your child will get to enjoy a similar experience as if he/she were at the We Rock gym. This includes a zip line, trampoline, rock wall, monkey bars, and much more!
Hopefully, we’ve convinced you by now that laughing, crying, and taking a few moments to breathe every now and again is not only in your best interest but in the best interest of your child as well. Even once you’ve come to realize and embrace those truths, engaging in any meaningful self-care still may leave you feeling guilty. There is much work to be done, and your child needs a lot of attention. How can you possibly enjoy a spa night at home or solo walk with all of that work needing to get done? It’s very important that you understand that your child is important, but you are important too. Don’t feel bad for taking time for yourself, because your mental stability matters.
This is a message we try to teach our kids all the time. It is also one that we occasionally need reminding of ourselves. People who are not part of a special needs family have all sorts of ideas about how things are or how they should be. Most of these ideas are wrong and based on a lack of understanding about how special needs children differ from other children.
When criticisms are based on misinformation, instead of getting angry, you can view it as an opportunity to educate the person so that they do not treat others that way in the future. Just remember that it isn’t always their fault if they don’t understand something. Be patient with them so they do not put their defenses up and reject your message.
Regardless of their motivation, you cannot let the opinions of people who do not know what your life is like have a negative impact on it.
At many points, you may feel as though the pressure will one day be too much for you to handle. Every special needs parent feels like that from time to time. And they all make it through it. As long as you arm yourself with special needs tips from people who have been there before and find a trusted autism resource, such as Rocking the Spectrum with Dina Kimmel, to turn to when you aren’t sure how to overcome a problem, you will do fine. Parents of all stripes have a tremendous power to endure challenges while trying to do right by their children. Remember, you have made it this far and you will go even further!
Special needs siblings and parents are often among the few people that a special needs child is able to fully express themselves around. This makes you the most important person in their life. The bond that you create will help both of you to get through the tough times. The love you feel for your child, and the love they give in return is a powerful weapon in the fight against whatever may try to bring you down.
Every new parent is afraid that they are going to make mistakes. This goes double for parents of special needs children. The reality is that every parent and every family member is going to make mistakes from time to time. This isn’t something that you should beat yourself up over. When you make a mistake, acknowledge that doing so is perfectly normal human behavior, learn from it, and use what you learned for the next time. Learning from these stumbling blocks is how good parents become good parents.
When you have bad days, remember that you have friends and loved ones around you that will be there to pick you up. Just check out the Warrior Network through Rocking the Spectrum with Dina Kimmel to be part of a broad and tight-knit community of autism parents. You also have access to fantastic resources like your local autism parent support group. With the internet, you can find communities filled with parents of special needs children who may have gone through the same thing you are going through. Talking with them about how they got through something can help you better face your problems head-on.
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym, We Rock on Wheels, Rocking the Spectrum with Dina Kimmel, and our non-profit, My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation have been and will continue to be there for you during this difficult time. Please contact your local WRTS with any questions, concerns, or if you just need a fellow autism parent to talk to during this time. Stay strong, We Rockers! We will get through this together.