It’s that time of year when many of us take a few moments to reflect on the past 365 days and start thinking about our 2022 New Year resolutions. Along with all that self-reflection comes our annual resolutions to do something different in the days, weeks, and months ahead that will positively impact our lives. Here are a few suggestions for special needs parents that can make a big difference not only for you but for your whole family!
Live in the Moment
All parents tend to worry about their children’s future or second guess their past parenting decisions to some degree, but when you’re parenting a child with special needs, these concerns often hold an even more prominent place in your mind. I know from experience that it’s easier to say than it is to do but learning to live in the moment and stay focused on what is happening NOW can be a game-changer for you and your children.
When we’re regretting the past or fretting about the future, we’re missing out on fully experiencing the present, which can have a negative impact on our children and us. Many of our kids are really good at reading our emotions, so more often than not, if your mind is wandering and causing you to become stressed, your kids are going to pick up on it and will be less likely to benefit from your time together. Check out this post for tips to help you live in the moment.
Avoid comparing your child with special needs to other children
It can be very tempting, especially with modern social media, to see what other families are going through or how other children are developing and compare it to your life. The important thing to remember, based on my experience, is that every family is different, every situation is different, and every child is different. Comparing yourself to others typically leads to depression, loneliness, or negativity. Instead, when you feel that temptation to compare creeping in, think about reflecting on how far your child has come or how much you have learned as a parent. I guarantee that focusing on everything you have achieved so far will leave you feeling proud of yourself and your child!
Evaluate your child’s developmental goals
The new year is a great time to take stock of all you are doing to support your child’s goals and decide if it is in their best interest to continue with your current routine or if it may be time to shake things up a bit. Take some time to think about what you really want most for your child over the course of the following year. If they are old enough and/or able to communicate their own desires clearly, be sure to include your child’s input too. Next, think about whether the things you’re currently doing support those goals, not only in theory but in practice.
For example, we all know that speech therapy is essential if increasing communication is one of your child’s primary goals. But if your child is currently receiving speech therapy, are you satisfied with the services they are receiving, the progress they have made, the rapport they (and you) have with the therapist, etc.? Or is it possible that someone else could be a better fit for your child? In addition, it’s essential to consider if there is something valuable missing from your child’s routine or anything you are doing more out of habit than because it adds value. Making one of your 2022 New Year resolutions to taking some time to reflect on where you are and where you want to go can help you be intentional about the path you take to get there.
As a parent of a child with special needs, I’m sure you’ve repeatedly been told how important it is to take care of yourself first if you want to be able to take care of your child effectively. I have received this advice so often that, if I’m being completely honest, I am certain that I have, on more than one occasion, rolled my eyes or muttered some unkind words about how “that’s easy for you to say” under my breath to someone who has given it. The harsh reality is that knowing that it’s essential to take care of yourself and finding time to do it are two very different things.
So, instead of telling you again that you need to find some alone time or do some yoga (not that those aren’t great suggestions if you enjoy them and can find the time), I want to encourage you to make one of your 2022 New Year resolutions to think about what self-care means and what it looks like for you—caring for yourself doesn’t always have to involve things that you do by yourself or that take a significant amount of time. Sometimes it can be as simple as saying “no” to a request of your time, listening to a favorite song, or texting a friend just to say hi. Caring for yourself in small ways can add up to a significant impact over time. Check out this customizable self-care bingo card for a fun way to encourage self-care.
Over the last 15 years, I have researched, foraged, networked, and found so many ways to nurture and support my son’s growth and interests. It would be my pleasure to share and guide parents on similar journeys.