Self-Care Tips for Parents of Children with Disabilities

During the COVID-19 outbreak, families across the country are practicing social distancing, quarantining, and isolation. Children are home from school and parents are home from work. For parents, this can mean planning activities to keep their kids busy at home when they aren’t in school.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Why is self-care important?

According to a recent article in Psychiatric Times, self-care, like staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and exercising are all the more important at a time like this (1). Parents across the country are struggling to maintain a routine and a sense of normalcy during a global pandemic. It is, understandably, an extremely stressful time. 

Additionally, half of all parents who serve as full-time caregivers to children with disabilities have been found to experience psychological distress (2). During school closures, parents of children with more severe disabilities are without the many specialists and educators their school offered them. This can be overwhelming.

Catherine Whitcher, who is a special education expert, says that these parents are often worried about their children falling behind during school closures. But she says, “We need to stabilize as human beings inside of our homes. It’s about life skills. It’s about community. It’s about connection” (2). This is a time to focus on maintaining mental health and positivity.

Tips for self-care

Parents of children with disabilities may be feeling even more drained from offering home support, home education, and 24/7 home care. Because of this, it’s even more imperative that they do the following (3, 4):

  1. Limit information: With social media and information abound at our fingertips, it can be hard to distance yourself from the news. But a huge part of caring for your mental health is being present in your life and only controlling what you can. That means limiting the negative and anxiety-inducing information. Checking the news is, of course, okay, but limiting it to only the necessary information can be helpful.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Checking in with yourself and your mental health throughout the day can make those hard days easier. A great way to practice mindfulness is through taking breaks for yourself to meditate, partake in a hobby, read a book, cook, or do something that makes you smile.
  3. Maintain a routine: Though everything may seem up in the air, routine is so important for your mental health. This may mean making a family activity schedule, planning homeschooling or work times, or planning phone calls or facetime chats with friends. Maintaining your usual wake/sleep schedule helps as well.
  4. Connect with your family: Take advantage of the extra time you have at home with your immediate family. Disconnect from your screens and spend quality time together often. Also be sure to connect with your family outside the home through phone calls, texts, or video chats.
  5. Get outside: Being in nature can do wonders for your mental health. Nature has a calming and nurturing effect, especially in times of strife. Add exercise, and your body and mind will thank you.

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Sources

  1. Morganstein, J. C. (2020, March 26). PsychPearls: COVID-19, A Critical Time for Self-Care. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/article/psychpearls-covid-19-critical-time-self-care
  2. Yamaoka, Y., Tamiya, N., Moriyama, Y., Sandoval Garrido, F. A., Sumazaki, R., & Noguchi, H. (2015). Mental Health of Parents as Caregivers of Children with Disabilities: Based on Japanese Nationwide Survey. PloS one, 10(12), e0145200. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0145200
  3. Vladimirova, L., & Gama, E. (2020, March 19). Self love in the time of coronavirus: Mental health tips for parents. Retrieved March 29, 2020, from https://qns.com/story/2020/03/19/self-love-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-mental-health-tips-for-parents/
  4. Kiff, C., & UCLA Semel Institute. (2020, March 23). A guide to parent self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://blog.oup.com/2020/03/a-guide-to-parent-self-care-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

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