Your well-being as a parent of a child with ASD is critical to your child's functioning. I have listed some simple stress reduction strategies to help improve your emotional well-being as a parent of a child with ASD.
Connecting with friends, family and others in the ASD community is a simple stress reduction activity. When you connect with others, it reduces loneliness and helps you feel supported. If you connect with other parents in the ASD community it can allow you to share triumphs as well as discuss challenges with others who have shared experiences. For social support within the ASD community, check out ABA Connect's Facebook page and the Autism Society of Central Texas Calendar. Both of these sites are updated regularly and are full of events just for you! Also, reference our Resources page to find organizations who design programs for persons with ASD and their families.
Schedule Time To Be "Mindful"
Take some time each day to focus on the present through a practice called mindfulness. Resist the urge to think about your child’s therapies, what’s for dinner, or anything else competing for your attention. Take some time, even if it is 10 minutes, just for you. Sit with your thoughts without judging them and focus on your surroundings, feelings, and any sensations you may feel without trying to change them. Mindfulness can include meditation or it can just be a specific focus on what you are doing in the moment. To learn more about mindfulness and how it promotes well-being and reduces stress, see the University of Berkeley Greater Good Science Center website.
Delight In Your Child
Parent optimism has been associated with stress reduction, better parenting, and positive well-being. That does not mean parents walk around with rose-colored glasses. But, an increased focus on your child's positive qualities and strengths can increase hope and optimism. Think of a cute thing your child did, a tender touch, or anything your child does that makes your heart melt. Reflect on those moments to boost your mood. If these moments do not readily come to mind, start today by looking out for things that make you smile about your child. One mother did this through an Autism Speaks blog that outlines five of her child’s personal gifts.
Research in positive psychology shows that regular gratitude can improve happiness and life satisfaction. One way to do this is to write down three things that went well during the day before going to bed. You may start by doing this for just a week or you may try practicing it consistently. Once you develop the well-being habit of noticing the small things that go well during your day, it can increase positive feelings and decrease stress.
Ask For Help When Needed
Know if you are experiencing "caregiver fatigue." Caregiver fatigue can interfere with your ability to enjoy your child and engage in positive interactions. Respite care for your child or help from family and friends can decrease stress and enhance caregiver well-being. If you feel you need additional help, consider joining a parent group led by someone experienced in children with developmental disabilities or consider individual therapy. HelpGuide.org offers good information about the signs of caregiver burnout and caregiver fatigue.
If you feel you need professional assistance, consider contacting our separate, but affiliated practice, ApaCenter. ApaCenter offers therapy and consultations for individuals, parents, and couples who want to improve their emotional and relational well-being.