10 Ways to Increase CALM for Stressed Out Parents by Allison Andrews, PsyD

There are no quick fixes or easy solutions for the problems that come along with raising quirky, spirited or special needs children. But in the rhythm of daily life, there are some choices that can help to reduce stress for you and for your family.  There are ways that you can create CALM. This matters, not only for you but for your child.

Our hope is that they will help you achieve a little more balance when life gets overwhelming.  Often, when you are a parent taking care of yourself feels indulgent or unnecessarily.  But managing and reducing your stress helps your whole family and it helps you be a better parent.  During times of stress and transition is when we truly need to strategize, conserve, and replenish for our children and for ourselves.

1)   Say no. When life is really stressful, you need to conserve your resources.  Everyone wants something but not everyone needs something. It is ok to say no to the PTO, the church or synagogue, the volunteer committee, to the school improvement day, international night or even to your extended family.

2)   Say no for your children.  Kids need downtime too. Especially children with special needs.  It is very easy for children with autism or sensory processing disorder, for example, to get overwhelmed and overloaded.  While some families can manage many different activities over the course a weekend, many families cannot.  What kind of family are you?  What does your family or child need to avoid at times.

3)   If life has been particularly stressful, let go (for now) of the thing(s) that triggers a meltdown for your child.  Do you fight every time it is time to put on sneakers? Wear crocs. Is there a meltdown every time you go to church or the grocery store?  Table it for now.  Sometimes the price of calm is worth it.  Everyone needs a chance to rest and restore.  Then you can re-imagine and re-approach what is most important to you and difficult for your child.

4)   Where possible temporarily avoid other parents (or family members) that don’t get it.  Or who are negative.  They are a drain on resources you cannot afford to give away.

5)   Say yes to something small and manageable right now that makes you happy or to something you love to do. This is not something that is out of reach or that your need to plan for carefully. Do something for yourself only.  Do something that has utterly nothing to do with your children.  Yes, you are busy and stressed but this does not need to be a big event or expensive endeavor.  This is something small that is just for you.

6)  Connect with other parents navigating similar situations. Don’t go it alone. Ask for help and advice from the people who get it and have been there.

7) Go to sleep early one evening a week.  For just one day a week let go of the pile of things you need to attend to in the evening.  See how you feel the next day.

8)  Cook a healthy meal. Something that nourishes you and that you love to eat.  Not a kid’s meal. Give the kids fish sticks or cereal.  They will be thrilled.

9) Move your body.   Not original but fundamentally useful and healthy. Exercise improves mood and lessens anxiety.

10) Get professional help for yourself when you need it.  For your children but also for yourself.   Life can feel overwhelming when you are caring for a child that needs a lot from you.  Sometimes you need a little extra support. Sometimes you need a place to come up with new strategies and new ways to decrease anxiety.

Whatever you do to take care of yourself make it a priority, so that you can be the parent your child needs.

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