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Research reveals greater stress levels among parents who care for children with autism. Healthy stress coping methods must be adopted to avoid its negative effect on the child and the family as well. But how exactly do you do that?
Being a parent is no easy feat. There are nights when you do not get enough sleep because your little one wanted to play peek-a-boo; there are days when rest is a dream because the baby in your arms just will not stop crying. Then you think to yourself, a few more years of diapers and feeding bottles. Alas, before you know it your little one is running around the house creating havoc and still more years later you face the constant worry for your growing up teenager! Bottom line: Parenting and stress goes hand in hand. And it only gets more difficult for parents when you have a child with special needs such as autism.
Although the parents with children suffering from disabilities encounter varying levels of stress, the percentage is higher amongst parents with autistic children. Parents of children with special needs are often burdened with grief, anticipation of future, regular appointments to the doctor, medications, rising medical bills. In case of autistic children, there are additional burdens of coming to terms with uncertainty of what future holds, and a constant nagging of what caused the autism. Additionally, autism is characterized by social anxiety. There might be instances where you are unable to hold your child since he does not like to be touched or refuses to look at you.
1. Support groups
This is a great way to release yourself of stress. Support groups bring together parents with similar problems and challenges. Parents can seek advice on any challenges they might be facing. If nothing, the feeling that you are not alone dealing with an autistic child is reassuring. It also brings hope and inspiration to parents to deal with their situation effectively. Parents also share their experiences and in helping each other find a sense of satisfaction.
2. Seeking a Counselor
This is the old school form of therapy but nevertheless, effective. Speaking to a counsellor not only gives a shoulder to lean but also provide guidance and advice to deal with stress. A counsellor deals with patients for a job and surely knows how to help patients cope up with a stressful situation. It is a place where you can share your feelings, frustrations, and negativity aloud. Hence, seeking a counselor is not an act of failure but rather a courageous step. Acceptance is the first step towards managing stress.
Any form of physical activity increases the level of endorphins in brain, which are ‘feel-good’ hormones. Even if you’re not an athlete, a simple running the laps will make you forget the irritations and frustrations of the day. Physical exhaustion leads to fatigue and sleep, which is rarity in stressful times.
Meditation and particularly mindful meditation is an extremely helpful way to relieve stress. It soothes nervous systems and prepares body and mind to take a step back and accept the stressful situation. It slows down heartbeat, respiration, and blood pressure. Mindful meditation is consciously practicing meditation at a decided place, time and particular meditation techniques to reap maximum benefits.
5. Writing in a journal
It might be difficult to speak out the feelings that are boiling up inside. In such times, it is always recommended to write down one’s feelings. It is a form of self-talk and gives perspective on reflection. It is an act of emotional disclosure for parents. Autism and parenting is a difficult combination to handle but writing things down can be an effective form of therapy.
Keep a daily schedule and follow it. Doing mechanical tasks and doing them rigorously helps in creating distractions to keep the stress at bay.
Parental stress while dealing with autistic children along with its complications is understandable. If parents deal with the stress effectively there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy every single moment of your young one’s life!