Self care tips for parents of children with behavioural challenges

We all know we need to look after ourselves... but life happens and we are looking after children that have special needs and behavioural challenges - somehow every week something seems to come up and our needs fall to the end of a very long to do list.

But the truth of the matter is, we are a seriously high burn out risk. 

Over the years I have come to realise that I was waiting for someone to swoop in and take care of me.  I didn't put myself first, everyone else's needs came first.  Sadly, if we don't look after ourselves, we wont have anything left in the tank to assist our children and we are not the best carers that we could be.

We so often feel unsupported, exhausted, trapped, judged.  Being a parent is hard enough - add ADHD to the mix and it can be a wild ride. 

Self care is not just doing nice things for ourselves, it is about our self talk, it is about living in a certain way so we don't get lost in the intensity of life.

So here are the lessons I have learnt along the way about self care:

1. Schedule in you: I am big on having a plan.  If it is not in my diary, it is not going to happen.  You have to schedule it in.  Regularly. Book it in! A walk, a facial, a coffee with a friend, time alone.  

2. Create your own stories: You are not your partner, your children, your family, or your friends.  You are you.  You are beautiful - you are your own unique person with hopes and dreams.  You have your own story, your own memories and do not let anyone else's story be so loud that it silences yours. A little time away from your family, where you pursue your own hopes and dreams, can really fill your cup.

3. Life is about progress not perfection:  So often as women we want everything to be just so.  This isn't how life is.  We have kids with special needs!  We need to celebrate progress, celebrate trying, celebrate getting up everyday and bringing it. Each step in the right direction, each healthy decision, each day we make a good choice needs to be celebrated.

4. Follow a problem with action:  We all need to vent, we need to voice our problems, but don't forget the take action part.  Sometimes we dedicate so much energy to the emotion of a situation that there is nothing left for action taking part.  If something happens that you don't like, spend a little bit of time working out how you might be able to change this next time it occurs.  That way if it comes up again, you have a strategy for how it can be prevented or handled a more positive way.

5. Stop saying sorry so much: As mums we say sorry way more than we should.  Sorry I am late, I am sorry for my son's behaviour, I am sorry.  Enough.  Unless you have genuinely hurt someone - stop saying sorry all the time.

6. When allocating your time, swap 'I don't have time' for 'it is not a priority': Try it.  See how that sits with you.  'I cant go for a walk because looking after myself is not a priority'. 'I cant spend the money on a naturopath because my health is not a priority.' See how that sits with you.  If it makes you uncomfortable to say it, change it.

7. Someone else's opinion is none of your business:  Let them have it.  Worry about what YOU think.  Don't get caught up wondering what others will think.  You don't have time for that.

8. Stop thinking I will be happy when: I will be happy when my child sleeps through the night.  I will be happy when my child is at school.  I will be happy when my child finishes school.  There is no happy when.  New levels, new devils.  We only have this very moment.  Please don't wish it away.  

9. Kick mum guilt:  Mum guilt is yuk, it robs mums of feeling their worth.  We do the hardest, most unappreciated job in the whole world.  We do our best.  We are never going to be perfect. Celebrate your successes.  

10. Take your own advice:  I often ask myself, what advice would I give to my bestfriend?  Take that advice for yourself.  We are often a lot kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

11. Breath: Pause, deep breaths. A few big deep belly breathes can change everything.  Man, this has taken some getting used to, but pausing for a moment and taking a breath before I react, can completely change how I react.  Some of my worst parenting moments have been on impulse.  If I allow one moment before I react, I often make a better choice.

12. Be selfish: To look after yourself properly sometimes you need to be selfish.  You need to put your needs first sometimes.  

13. Delight in the little moments: Your child's giggle, cuddling them, feeling the sun on your back, their long eyelashes, looking up at the leaves in the trees, lying in freshly washed sheets.  All these little moments make a life.  Take notice of all the little things, there is so many amazing things around us.

What things do you do to practice self care?


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