As an autism parent, self-care may feel like a luxury. You’re busy supporting your neurodivergent child and taking care of your other responsibilities, there’s little time for much else. But lately, you feel burnt out and overwhelmed. You know you should be taking better care of yourself, yet you never do.
The reality is, self-care is critical to your health and happiness, especially when you’re dealing with the unique challenges that accompany parenting a neurodivergent individual. Regularly practicing self-care lays the foundation for good mental health. It helps ward off negative emotions such as stress, overwhelm, and loneliness, and boosts your mood. So, today we’re going to discuss self-care for autism parents. My goal is to help you not only understand the importance of making time for self-care but also give you some practical tools to help make it feel doable amidst life’s chaos.
Self-care is Vital for your Wellbeing
As autism therapists who work with families where one or more individuals are neurodivergent, we understand how stressful it can be to parent an individual on the autism spectrum. You’re not simply dealing with common parenting dilemmas, you’re also helping your child cope with the struggles associated with their neurodiversity. This may include navigating complicated sensory sensitivities, behavioral concerns, or social struggles and anxiety. Furthermore, you’re likely helping your child establish an IEP and working with them to achieve their academic and social goals. This may mean meeting with educators, counselors, and therapy appointments.
When the demands of autism parenthood collide with everyday stress, it may leave you feeling like you’ve been run ragged. You have little left to give to anything or anyone… including yourself. There’s no way you have time for hours of indulgent self-care.
But here’s the thing, you cannot pour from an empty cup. If you run yourself into the ground you will find yourself struggling in all facets of your life. You will struggle to parent your child and navigate your day-to-day life. Practicing self-care helps you be more compassionate towards your child, it also reduces your anxiety and frustrations. Furthermore, self-care helps you be more present and clear-minded which is key in handling some of the challenges you may be experiencing. Simply put, you will be better equipped to care for the people you love if you care for yourself first.
Practicing Self-Care Sets a Good Example for Your Neurodivergent Child
If that’s not enough to convince you then I encourage you to think about the example you’re setting for your child. It’s not at all uncommon for neurodivergent individuals to go to great lengths to fit in with their peers. They mask their true self in order to do so. But, over time this leads to burnout and exhaustion. Self-care is critical to their success too. Individuals with autism need time to recharge their battery and regroup. But they too often ignore it in favor of fitting in and being liked.
It’s very important to show your child that you value self-care and understand how important it is for your mental health. If they see you making time for self-care then they will be much more likely to do the same.
Thoughts on Practicing Self-Care as an Autism Parent
You may be reading this and nodding your head agreeing with what I’m saying, but knowing in the back of your head that you probably won’t practice self-care anytime soon because there’s no time. I get it. Lots of people feel this way.
Believing that self-care takes a lot of time is a common misconception. Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Actually, it can take as little as five minutes. Self-care can be as simple as taking a few minutes to breathe deeply and be mindful of your feelings and surroundings. You can literally practice self-care anytime anywhere by simply saying something nice to yourself.
That being said, it’s totally okay and appropriate for you to take a couple of hours and spend it doing something you love. Maybe that’s playing the sport you enjoy, getting a manicure, exercising at the gym, or strolling the aisles of Target. If you have a partner, go on date nights and nurture your relationship. Choose activities that help you release stress and fill your cup. This will help you return to caring for your child with a clear head and a happy heart and you both will benefit from that.
Reach Out for Support From Other Autism Parents
If you’re struggling and could use some support as an autism parent, I encourage you to reach out to a therapist who specializes in neurodiversity. You deserve support too. A therapist can help you cope with your stress and loneliness in proactive ways and support you by providing you with useful parenting support.
Lastly, find your support system from other autism parents. If there are no groups available where you live, consider checking out my sister business Neurodiversity School. We offer courses for autism parents that come with a discussion board that allows you to connect with others who also have neurodivergent children.
Begin Autism Parent Therapy in California
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Or… Take an E-Course for Autism Parents
If you are not in California but are wanting support as an autistic individual or parent, there are options for you! Consider our sister website, Neurodiversity School. Check it out if you want to join an online community of neurodivergent peers. To get started, follow the following steps:
- Sign up for our newsletter
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- When the website launches, take the quiz and find out what course is right for you or your loved one!
Other Options at Open Doors Therapy for Individuals with Autism & Autism Parents:
Our Palo Alto, CA-based Autism Therapy Clinic serves teens and adults on the autism spectrum. More specifically, our therapists support those who identify as high functioning, having Aspergers, and ASD traits. We are also proud to offer support to the families of those with an autism spectrum disorder.
Currently, our services are exclusively offered through online therapy in California. Our services cover a wide range of challenges that individuals on the autism spectrum might experience. Our skilled autism therapists specialize in individual counseling for autistic teens and adults, parent counseling, group therapy, and countless social skills groups! Right now, we have groups for neurodiverse working professionals, college students with autistic traits, teens & caregivers, and gifted youth & caregivers. We also offer social skills groups for neurodiverse adults, women who identify as neurodiverse, a mothers group, and a summer social skills college transition training program for youth transitioning to college. Reach out to us for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.