Self-Care And Spring Cleaning: Tips For Parents Raising Kids With Disabilities
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Self-Care And Spring Cleaning: Tips For Parents Raising Kids With Disabilities

As spring approaches, we begin to clean our homes and throw out items we no longer use. Whether it is the toy that your child no longer plays with or the sweater that your spouse never wears, spring cleaning is a time of “out with the old and in with the new”.

It is time to think about also scheduling a spring cleaning of your soul. We are so busy with the stress of daily life that we often forget the importance of taking care of ourselves. Self-care is more than just eating healthy foods and exercising. It is also about taking care of your psychological and emotional development. For parents raising children with disabilities, it can be difficult to make time for self-care.

Cleansing yourself of all the negativity in your life and creating achievable goals so that you can become stronger and more empowered! Making sure you are surrounded by the most supportive people to help you achieve your goals. Remember, when you are physically, psychologically and emotionally strong, you can be the best advocate for your son or daughter.

Acknowledge your accomplishments
Remind yourself of all that you have achieved in the last few days, weeks, months, or even years. Your ability to survive stressful challenges and difficult stressors. Even if it may seem like a small accomplishment, remember that is one step forward for you, your child, and family. Use this reflection on your amazing successes as motivation to continue to achieve. Remembering the great things that you have done will help you continue to set goals and have the confidence in yourself to achieve them. Whether it is finding your child a new therapist, surviving an IEP meeting, getting a promotion at work or handling a difficult project—remember that you conquered each goal and have faith in yourself that you will continue to make even more accomplishments. Create smaller and more specific goals so that you have a step by step plan to reach your overall desired goal. As you successfully accomplish these smaller goals you will begin to fuel your inner fire and become motivated to continue achieving.

Lessons learned from your disappointments
As you reflect on your achievements, it is also time to reflect on your disappointments. Whether it is difficulty losing weight or issues with your child’s school—what lessons have you learned in the past few days, weeks, months, or years? How can you make sure that situation never happens again? Maybe reassess the situation and remember that there was some progress, but not as much as you would have liked. As humans we tend to be very hard on ourselves and need to remember to stop and see the glass as half full instead of half empty. Think about how the lessons you have learned from these situations can help you create new goals that are more realistic and achievable. Parents tend to want to conquer the world for their child and family – but sometimes it is important to remember to stop and think “What are some alternative goals that can make me just as happy?

Reflecting on your relationships
As you are thinking about your accomplishments and disappointments, you should also reflect on the different relationships in your life. Who are the most toxic people in your life? Who are the most supportive people in your life? Surprisingly, sometimes one person can fit into both categories. Maybe a new goal would be to finally figure out how to deal with the negative people in your life. You cannot get rid of your mother, BUT you can learn to say no or politely tell her to stop interfering in your life. Remind them that you need to focus on yourself and your family, so you do not have the time for their negativity. To the people who have been the most helpful and supportive—how can you maintain your relationship with them? How can you be there for them in their time of need? Also, remember to stop and say “thank you." Whether a call, text or email, trust me—they will appreciate it!

Dr. Frances Victory received her PhD in Developmental Psychology at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. Her thesis was titled, "Exploring the Role of Perceived Religiosity on Daily Life, Coping, and Parenting for Jewish Parents of Children with Autism." You can reach her at victory.frances@gmail.com.

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