Special Needs Parents: 6 Practical Ways To Stop Worrying And Start Living

 
I am not an expert on ‘worrying’, but I am a mother and that definitely establishes my expertise on ‘Addiction Of Worry!’ We all can say or do whatever we want, but one thing I can absolutely vouch for on the behalf of all the parents of children with special needs is that we worry too much! A lot of times we worry because we have to, but at all other times, we choose to stay in this perpetual state of worrying as this feeling gives us a sense of relief. We have been told or shown how parents are supposed to be constantly tensed about everything that their children are not doing. And without much conscious thought, we imbibe the same.

We do know that constant worry can pose a serious threat to our health and that after a few years, it is mostly an indulgence which might not lead to any fruition, but we just like to do it. We can worry about pretty much everything that can be ‘worried about,’ from what therapy to choose to what school to select; from ‘losing out on the ‘super expensive program” to ‘a missed appointment’, the right to worry is copyrighted by us. I am a worrier too, and I am very possessive about my worries. Nobody understands them better than I do but lately when I realised what this habit of being in the ‘never-ending’ state of worry was doing to my physical and mental well-being, I decided to take an action. And this is how I am planning on doing it. Hope you’d get some ideas here to make the journey a little less worrisome…

  1. Plan Yesterday, Live Today And Worry Tomorrow

   
     I know now most of you must be smirking at this idea thinking how it is just impossible, even more so for us parents of children with various special needs. We have to worry to make it better for our kids. And we have to worry about the food that he is eating or not eating! We have to be on our toes to see we don’t miss out on anything new that can make even a small ounce of difference.
     We have to make schedules for all the therapies, hospital visits, school work and yes, That laundry too! I understand and totally relate to what you feel, but I also know this for a fact that planning and worrying are two different things and while planning can make us productive, anxiety can play havoc! Living in the day would not come on its own. We’ll have to try hard to integrate it in our lives to be able to deal with the ever mounting worry. I try to have 15 minutes planning time today for tomorrow: for future me so I will have less to deal with tomorrow morning.

2. Bigger Picture- Smaller Goals

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One thing I’ve realised after meeting a lot of parents and speaking to them often is that we all put our energies in the exact opposite to how it should ideally be spent. Most of us work with very big goals and get disappointed if the results are not proportionate to the effort. For instance, if a child is not able to understand or do sums of addition or count until 100, we get worried and keep pushing them until, either they get bored, or we get drained of our energies.

My suggestion is to keep looking at the bigger picture realistically too; we know maths remains an area of difficulty for a few of our children, so maybe there is another way we can teach or take this up. Our goal is not to make them cram counting or 50 more sight words in the long run. The bigger challenge is imparting the ‘life or functional skills.’ So now, I try not to lose my sleep for these smaller things which my daughter will learn eventually. The more important thing for me now is to try to align my small learning objectives with ‘The Big Picture.’

 

 3. Learn The Art Of ‘Waiting’

As much as we hate it, most of our life’s answers lie in ‘waiting for some more time.’ We fret about our child not being able to walk, run, or climb stairs. Wait for some time and he does all of this and more. He can’t communicate! Wait, he will! A lot of times we try really hard and get impatient too early and this leads to greater disappointments.
I would like to share an example; Aarshia was pretty non-verbal until she was about 6. She used to converse in nouns, specific words or signs and wasn’t even saying 2-3 word sentences in spite of me trying everything I could. I was constantly comparing her to other kids her age and was almost always worried about it.’ Anyway, better sense prevailed, and I tried this golden therapy called ‘waiting!‘ I waited for a year or so and voila! She is a talking gun around the house now. She is framing sentences on her own. Her clarity of words is getting better and that too without spending any additional resources. All I did was to facilitate the process by making the home environment little more conducive to talking. We were explaining everything to her, talking more than required and that totally did it. So stop pushing yourself too hard, learn to wait!

 

4. Don’t Make Your Child The Centre Of Your Universe

I know this may sound totally opposite to what popular parenting sites keep telling you but trust me, as a mother, I believe this holds true for every single parent. I know having a child with special needs in your family changes the core of your family dynamics, and sometimes few changes are mandatory. However, if you try to modify and transform the very basics of your or your family’s life, based on the new entrant, it might result in long-term dissatisfaction among siblings and other family members.
People uproot their lives, migrate, change/leave jobs and do everything in their capacity to make it best for their child. And while all this seems natural, one must also not forget the needs of other members of the family. You have other kids, a spouse, and your own life. Try and integrate your child and his needs with your family’s and not the other way around, because this is not a short-term arrangement you are making, this might be the lifelong alteration, so be very careful while taking decisions that can impact greatly later.

5. Try To Take Rational, Unemotional Decisions:

This is straightaway lifted from my favourite movie series ‘Before sunrise/sunset/midnight.’  In their latest film, the lead actors are trying to talk about a situation in hand, and the husband suggests to approach it rationally and unemotionally, almost as if it is being proposed for someone else. That immediately struck a chord with me. I know for a fact that many times we do things out of guilt and over flowing emotions and not because we have looked at it objectively.
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Henceforth, I would like to share what I do before trying out anything new and especially something that will require a lot of resources. I wait, research, talk to other parents and see for myself. For instance, before trying a new program, I would like to know if its results are proportionate to me spending two important hours commuting or managing the schedules. And most of the times, I realise that mothers are a bigger and a better resource than what is wrapped in a beautiful package called a new ‘therapy’, and if not all the time I still like to talk about some tangible results of people who have done it in the past. So be a little objective about any new therapy, course, program you want to commit to. Sometimes detachment works better than attachment.

6. Keep A Happiness Journal:

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       This is extremely important. It could be your Facebook page, a diary, a blog. Basically anything where you can go back in time and smile at all the achievements, funny pictures and beautiful things you did together. If you still don’t have any of these, try to create one, and you’d be happy you did. And this journal will not only be about your child. It will be a family journal where you can put in all the achievements of your other kids too. Fun outings, short vacations, family gatherings, etc. Keep those worries away by looking at the precious chronicle of your life and sharing it with family and friends. Try to write one happy thing about each day. Soon you will have enough reasons to go back in time and smile.
The tactics or the strategies to deal with worry are the same across the board but being a parent of a special-needs child, we do get carried away and forget to look at the things from an outsider’s point of view which might help in dealing with stress and anxiety. As long as we have the belief, that our children have potential and the fact, that they have certain limitations too; it will not be difficult to put things into perspective. This quote precisely says the same…

“God, grant me the serenity,

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.”

 

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