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We have changed our name! Kids on the Spectrum is now called Living on the Spectrum

Stress Management for Parents of Exceptional Kids

Parenting is stressful. Parenting exceptional kids is even more so. We’re human after all, and when our kids are doing it tough and we have to fight for every opportunity for them to thrive, it can take its toll.

This is often made worse for the fact that our kids often have a hard time regulating their emotions and difficult behaviours are therefore common. And then, there’s the fact that how we deal with all this day to day can feed into this…

While it’s REALLY important is not to let guilt overwhelm you – we’re all doing our best . It is also important to know that there is a LOT we can do to ensure our stress levels are manageable. By learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way we are helping ourselves AND our kids.

Susie Hopkins understands the demands of parenting an exceptional child.

Less stress for you means less stress for the whole family

Studies confirm that our stress levels are much higher than other parents. The fact that many kids with additional needs exhibit some seriously challenging behaviours means that stress levels can end up completely out of control. I have been there. It was horrendous. 

And perhaps just as many studies show that parent stress is not good for our kids. I am so blessed to have learned many strategies and skills that have made our very difficult journey more manageable. Even so, when things were really tough in our family, my stress levels were through the roof.

As someone who parents completely solo, I can’t imagine how I would have functioned if I didn’t have the skills that I do.

Thankfully, though we encounter challenges every day in various ways in my little family and sometimes my tolerance wears thin because this is to be expected. We have come a long way since those dark, dark days.

Many techniques that are super easy, such as simple breathing exercises, made a huge difference to my stress levels and therefore our lives at that most difficult time – which lasted a couple of years…

It’s not hard to reduce stress levels, but you do need to learn to do things differently.

Shift your perspective!

The biggest thing that will help you manage stress is a shift in your perspective

The first step is accepting that stress is normal and to make sure you don’t feel stressed (or ashamed) about feeling stressed!

And on a similar theme, getting really good at ‘practicing acceptance’ in general, of the things you cannot change, is really helpful. Most of us don’t think of being more accepting as a way to approach the challenges in our lives.

It doesn’t mean we don’t do anything about the stuff we can change. It simply means we know the difference and try to bring an attitude of accepting how things are in each moment. You can practice this with things like waiting in a queue, or receiving an unexpectedly high bill.

And when things are really touch in relation to parenting, being aware of our reaction. Both outwardly and inwardly, and then intentionally seeing if you can be more accepting can be really helpful. It helps you to keep a level head and respond to stress instead of simply reacting.

Get very intentional about how you live your life

This is another important step to making sure your stress levels are not out of control. We live in stressful times. Unless you are one of the very few people who are naturally good at stress, living your life in a way that promotes good mental health enables you to enjoy the ride – even when times are tough.

This applies to everyone; mental health problems are through the roof. And as parents of kids with special needs we are even more at risk of mental health problems than most and our kids depend on us so much to be their rock.

We’re risking too much when we live our lives in ways that don’t promote our mental fortitude. When we don’t take a breather, drink too much and don’t get enough sleep for example, day in day out, we’re going to have lower levels of stress tolerance.

But I get it. It can be hard to know where to start if you want to address your stress levels. Which is why being walked through a step-by-step process where you can make a plan for less stress in your life can be really helpful.

Because when you’re less stressed, it not only benefits you, it benefits the whole family.

I know that one of the main reasons my little family is thriving (it has NOT always been this way!) is because I am determined to make sure I am mentally healthy. I’d love to help you be less stressed and feel mentally strong too.

About the author, Susie Hopkins is an expert in stress management. Her background is as a Registered Nurse, a Master’s of Public Health and she is a qualified mindfulness and yoga teacher.
She’s also mum to Harry, six, who is level two autistic.

You can access Susie’s Free Stress management course here.

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