Coping with Overwhelm as a Parent of a Child with Autism

Coping with Overwhelm as a Parent of a Child with Autism

Your son with Asperger’s is refusing to go to school.

Your sensory sensitive daughter is constantly testing your patience when it comes to mealtime.

Your six year old with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is throwing tantrums like clockwork.

Your four-year-old child with PDD is not responding positively to potty training.

Is there anything about these scenarios that you can relate to?

There are bound to be certain times for any parent when everything feels overwhelming and being the parent of a child on the Autism spectrum brings yet another set of challenges with it. On occasions such as these you may wonder how you are going to carry on and make it to the next day.

If you are facing a situation that makes you feel as if you are moving through quicksand, I have three words for you - it will pass. There are times during these challenging years that may seem never ending but in retrospect, you may someday find yourself asking, “Where did all the time go?”  In the big scheme of things, the very active parenting years do fly by so how can one manage to take advantage of every precious minute despite the stressful and overwhelming feelings they may generate?

Here are some ideas to help ease your stress level, build your confidence and experience your parenting years to the fullest:

- Stop, breathe and reflect:  When you feel as if things are falling down around you and you find it difficult to enjoy your parenting try to put a halt on all of your thoughts and bring yourself fully to the present moment, even if just for ten seconds. Stand still, take a deep breath and allow yourself to focus on your feelings and the feelings of your child then ask yourself what is really important. By bringing your full attention to the situation and tuning into your inner voice you will open yourself up to new insights that have the potential to transfer a difficult situation into a more positive one.

- Keep your expectations in check: Be mindful of the expectations you have for your child with Autism and consider if they are in her best interest. Ask yourself if they are developmentally appropriate and within her physical, cognitive, social, and emotional ability to cope. Unrealistic expectations do not work in anyone’s favor – they only add to everyone’s stress level and are counter-productive to creating positive interactions.

- Be proactive and write your own movie: Don’t allow the stress of certain situations to sweep you away into a scene that doesn’t follow the script you have for your family. If you find it difficult to be fully present in every moment, spend time thinking ahead of how you would like your day to evolve. Then ask yourself what sort of intention you need to set in order to produce the movie you desire. In the process, identify and prepare yourself for possible obstacles, then contemplate how you might direct the scene around them in order to achieve the results you want.

- Maintain a diary: Keeping a diary of sorts will help you replay the memories that might escape you in the future when you do look back and question, “Where DID all that time go?” The act of writing things down also helps you gain a perspective that might not have occurred to you in the moment. Your entries do not have to be lengthy and can be simple notations that jog your memory for details when reviewed. Consider using your appointment book or calendar to enter positive tidbits about daily happenings. Then use it to review and compile a list of memories, achievements and occurrences to share with each child on their birthday – a wonderful activity that creates memorable keepsakes.

- Never let up on your self-care: Your children function best when you are at the top of your game. When mom and dad are physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually nourished everyone benefits! Getting adequate rest, maintaining social ties, addressing emotions and feeding your spirit are great protective factors. Maintaining your self-care will boost your ability to manage those overwhelming and chaotic periods. Parents are more likely to be happy and enjoy their parenting when they attend to their own well-being.

 

As a parent of any child, it is unrealistic to expect a lingering state of peace, regardless of your child’s abilities. Always remind yourself to focus on the positive and appreciate the little things. Notice and savor the small moments of household harmony – as fleeting as they might be, they add up to something substantial in the end. If you do this on a daily basis it is bound to lift your spirits and get you through the tough times until they pass.