One of the toughest realities facing parents of children with special needs is the loss of treasured personal freedom.
If you are thinking about making valuable New Year's resolutions that can make a difference in your life in 2007, consider personal time away from the demands of special needs high on your list of priorities.
Remember all those carefree hours you once spent going to the latest movies, hanging out with friends or going for a beer after work? What about all that free time you once wasted reading current magazines cover to cover, or gardening, washing the car, or singing along loudly to the radio on last minute weekend adventures to the beach?
Remember when you could actually take the time to shut the bathroom door to answer nature's call?
Gone in an instant.
These once simple daily decisions have been replaced by big family commitments and limited free time. But with thoughtful planning, you can begin to regain some of that precious time away for activities that will help leave you feeling refreshed and renewed. Reclaiming personal freedom in families of children with special needs often requires creative thinking and lots of juggling, especially if your child has physical, medical or behavioral needs that make finding, and keeping, babysitters difficult.
Then there is the sticky little issue of the costs involved with special needs parenting that often strain family budgets to the max, especially when one parent has given up their income to stay home and raise the children.
Don't let these realities stop you.
While such concerns can make time away seem like a luxury you can't afford, time away from the demands of special needs parenting is crucial to your physical, mental and spiritual health. Think of it as going to the well when you are very thirsty. A solid commitment to self care can help you better face the unexpected parenting challenges that lie ahead, and even handle them more successfully.
With a brand new year just around the corner, this is a great time to add personal time back into your life. Here are just a few simple and inexpensive tips designed to help you escape the demands of special needs in 2007, if only briefly.
Feel free to add some of your own- then go take a walk!
Address and Prioritize Child-Care Needs.
Seek support from family, friends and community agencies to meet this need. Knowing that you have help in place on a regular basis is priceless and grants you the freedom to take time out just for you, free of guilt.
Read a Favorite Magazine Cover to Cover.
Try to avoid tough-life stories and hard news. The idea is to lighten your own mental load for a bit so you can return to your parenting role feeling more inspired, motivated and relaxed.
Take long walks, go for a run, or work out in the privacy of your home. Jump rope, take a bike ride, or dance in front of the mirror. Exercise helps relieve stress and can heighten self esteem, enhancing your ability to handle your parenting challenges more effectively and more positively. Practice deep breathing, too.
Give Your Partner a Foot Massage.
Or just cuddle together on the couch and share your fondest hopes and dreams. Ladies: paint your toenails, condition your hair, shave your legs or take a bubble bath. Use great smelling lotions and soaps that help improve your mood.
Make Time for Those Leisure Activities that Matter Most to You.
Golfers can practice their swing in their own backyard or at a nearby park. Anyone can shoot hoops in the driveway or at a local playground, community center or during open gym at the local high school. Visit the library or go out for great java at a favorite neighborhood cafe. If you enjoy taking photos, carry your camera with you. There are lots of great photo ops to be had during those daily outings.
Advertise for Help in College Newspapers that Attract Students Majoring in Education or Health Careers who are Eager for On-the-Job Experience.
Once you have quality childcare in place, commit to a regular date night and make it a priority. Nurturing your relationship with your significant other can make a big difference in how you handle your special needs challenges, while also enhancing and further solidifying parenting teamwork.
Watch funny movies, tell funny jokes, ready funny stories, even laugh at the absurdity of your own parenting demands. Laughter is healing and a great stress release. And it's one terrific, and free, coping tool on the toughest days.
Having a child with special needs produces a wide range of powerful emotions that need a healthy, safe release. Journaling helps us express strong feelings without fear of judgment or harm.
Nuture Your Faith.
Find solace in heartfelt, honest prayer. Whatever your beliefs, there is solace and comfort to be found in spiritual practices, especially during the most difficult days.
Visit Museums, Cathedrals and Synagogues.
The beauty of these places can feed your spiritual side, and your soul, leaving you refreshed and reconnnected with something larger than yourself.
Sit and Do Nothing.
Meditate or light a favorite candle. Quiet time is rare in families of children with special needs, and the addition of it to our hectic daily lives can prove healing, soothing and relaxing. When we are quiet, it is easier to hear our own voice, and as a result, become clearer on the parenting choices we need to make now.
Take a Nap!
Many parents of children with special needs often walk around sleep deprived. Taking a nap whenever you can to help support your body's need for additional slumber, may leave you feeling more energized and in a better frame of mind for facing your demands.
You can find more tips and resources to help you better meet the demands of parenting a child with special needs in my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations.