Stress Free Parenting Part 3 – How To Cope With The Big and Small Things

Rona was a client I worked with for two years. She has twin girls, who she tried to conceive for four years. As you can imagine, the whole process of trying to get pregnant will create an enormous level of stress for anyone, but for Rona who is the also the Chief Medical Advisor for a big medical practice, it was a particularly great stress.

She sought help only after her husband left her for another woman, when her twin girls were 6 months old. When Rona called me, her twins were 3 years old, and one of them had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). People with ASD tend to have communication deficit, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age. People with ADS can get highly dependent on routines, extremely sensitive to changes in their environment, or intensely focused on odd items. As you can imagine, Rona’s life became a lot more stressful after she found this out.

For those of you unfamiliar, or for those of you who are dealing with a very similar situation, I’ll give you a brief overview of some of the behaviors your child with ADS will exhibit.

In order to be considered ASD, there are two main areas where people must show persistent deficits:

  1. Social communication and social interaction
  2. Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior

To put this in perspective, the CDC said in 2014, 1 in 68 American children fall on the Autism spectrum – which is a huge increase from previous years. Autism is way more prevalent in boys than girls. While no one really knows why, increased diagnosis and various environmental factors are believed to be part of the uptick.

So Rona asked me to help her come up with some simple strategies to alleviate the overwhelming feelings of stress she was dealing with, and upon further review, I found that these strategies aren’t all that specific to just Rona. Most parents can use these strategies to help them deal with their specific problems and stressful moments.

Here are four strategies that I encourage you to try this week:

  1. Find support from other parents with similar situations. Whether your child is diagnosed with Autism, or you are having trouble conceiving, or you are simply having difficulty finding a compatible nanny or getting your child into a particular school, support is extremely important as one can share information, get advice, and offer an ear of understanding when it comes to personal and professional situations. Knowing you aren’t alone in a situation is proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
  2. Remember to stop and look after yourself. As parents of children with or without special needs, we often forget to find time for ourselves. Finding 10-20 minutes a day to relax, read a book or paint your nails – something that is completely for yourself – will give you a new energy to be the parent you need to be for your children.
  3. Accept that as a parent you will experience stress, and when you experience stressful situations, remind yourself that it is normal to feel this way. Maybe you can even become creative and call feeling stressed something else? How about, “I am feeling excited!” I tried this a few times, and it would always make me laugh when I labeled my stress in some other way. Instead of defining yourself as the “always stressed out” parent, try to come up with a different way of perceiving yourself, even if it is silly and only serves to make you smile.
  4. Be realistic with the demands you put on yourself. I remember when I went back to work, I thought that I had more time than I actually had; I had very high expectations of myself. I found myself disappointed over and over again. When I changed my expectations and committed myself to complete at least one task a day, I found that I was completing more tasks than expected. Don’t make to do lists a mile long and chastise yourself for not finishing everything. Instead learn to prioritize. What is really important? If you are getting your children fed and to school and they are healthy, does it really matter that you didn’t get to organizing your closet like you had wanted to?

I’ve worked with clients who have dealt with everything from incredibly unique diagnoses to everyday parenting worries, but the common thread is parents of every walk of life feel stressed out from time to time. Reaching out to find specific support and coming up with strategies that you can employ regularly will give you confidence and the ability to work through taxing situations.

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