Parenting a child with ASD and Burnout
Every parent experiences burnout. Whether you are parenting a child or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) or not, everyone reaches a breaking point; but for parents of children with ASD the breaking point is reached quicker.
All parents have to deal with meltdowns, tantrums, picky eaters, and disobedience, but not all parents have to deal with ASD related meltdowns, tantrums, eating problems, and disobedience. Most parents don’t have to worry about finding a babysitter who can deal with your child’s special needs. Most parents don’t have to worry about their child’s potty training, therapy sessions, dietary restrictions, and social difficulties. Most parents don’t have to worry about overstimulation in the grocery store when their child thinks it is too loud. A lot of parents don’t have a child with ASD.
It takes a special type of strength to parent a child with ASD, but we aren’t all super parents. We get frustrated, we need time to ourselves, we need a support system, but often times it is hard to find. The increased pressures of parenting a child with ASD, and the limited time to ourselves, makes burnout come on faster and many times stronger, than normal.
How to tell when you are burning out
Many parents are so focused on what is best for their child, how to best help their child, and researching what a better diet for them is, how therapy is working, is this going to go one forever? All of these questions consume our minds so much that we rarely stop to think: how am I feeling? Our own health is just as important as the health of our children. We can’t help or be useful, if we ourselves are unable to function every day. One mother shared her experience of ignoring her limits in a blog post.
In order to give the best care to our children we need to look after ourselves also, but sometimes it is hard to recognize when we are ignoring our limits. We made a little checklist that can help ensure that you are recognizing your body’s signals.
Do you often feel like you are subject to intense mood swings? One minute you are angry and the next you are sad or disappointed? This is a sign of mental fatigue, which is just as important as physical fatigue.
Are you always feeling rundown or are you prone to easily catch an illness? When our bodies are under-nourished, and when we don’t get enough sleep, our immune system can weaken and cause us to early get sick.
Do you have no energy to do anything outside of your daily tasks? Maybe a friend invited you out for dinner and you said no because you were tired. Or maybe you no longer participate in your usual hobbies. These can be signs that your body and mind are fatigued. If you can barely find the energy to perform your daily tasks, it is time to take a time out.
Is your mind constantly on your child? It’s ok to think about your child they are a big part of your life, but if it is interrupting and effecting your relationships with others, it may be time to take a step back. We are all concerned for our children, and we all want what is best for them, but it can’t be the only thing in your life. You are a parent of a child with ASD but that is not your only identity.
Are you losing sleep? Can you not ‘find’ time to do anything for yourself? Often times when we are focused on being the best parent for our child, we lose sight of caring for ourselves. Many parents find their own doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions are set on the back burner. You have to make sure you are taking care of yourself, before you can take care of others.
It is hard sometimes to face the reality, but if you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be on the verge of a burnout. It’s ok if you are, it happens to all of us, and it can happen often. In order to be the best version of yourself for your child, you need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself too.
How to Avoid Burnout
We can be right on the edge of a burnout and come back from it, but in order to do so we have to recognize it first. No one can avoid a problem, if they don’t even recognize it as a problem in the first place. You need to set into place some safety nets, so that when you are about to burnout someone else can pick up the slack.
The first step to avoiding burnout is setting up a support system. For some people it is their family, their parents, their partner, their neighbors, their church, anyone. For others it is a parents group for children with ASD. And for others it is their therapists and doctors. The main point, is that when you are about to crash, you need someone else who can help out. You can’t settle a tantrum, do the laundry, and make dinner all at one time- no matter how good of a multitasker you are. You need someone to help around the house, or maybe someone to help with your child’s social skills, or someone to help with school work. Form a network of people you trust with your child who you know want what is best for them, and it can help relieve a lot of stress. Establishing a support system is essential for the success of your parenting journey. It can take a while to find the right people, and sometimes it is a trial and error process, but once you have one set up, it is a big weight off of your shoulders.
The second step to avoid burnout, is to do stuff for yourself. Take a night off, take a long bath, go for a walk, read a book, go to church, take up a hobby. Anything that makes you feel like your own person again is something that is worth pursuing. What did you used to do before having a child? What is something that you would enjoy doing now? Find your identity outside of being a parent, and really pursue it. You need to have balance in your life in order to be able to handle tough situations. You need an outlet for your frustration and emotions. Some people have found exercise to be a great outlet and others have found mindfulness to be helpful. Whatever it is that makes you happy- do it.
One of the best ways to avoid burnout is ABA therapy. ABA therapy is a therapy system that is tailored to your needs and your child’s needs. At Alliance ABA we strive to become a part of the support system. We want to make sure that you and your child are getting the most out of your lives. We want to ensure you avoid burnout, and actively make things easier in your everyday lives. With therapy sessions tailored to your child’s needs and your schedule, we can create happy and successful lives for you and your child.
Contact Us Today at Alliance ABA in Fredericksburg, Virginia to set up a consultation.