3 Ways Self-Care is Good for Your Special Needs Child

October 15, 2013 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

I talk a great deal about self-care for parenting a child with mental illness. The task isn't easy. Not only are you responsible for this child, but you also need to address his or her mental illness. We spend so much time caring for our kids that we don't have time to care for ourselves.

So many parents I've met during the course of my work have very poor self-care habits. They don't get enough sleep, have a poor diet or have their own untreated health issues. But, they keep pushing through for their kids. So here are three ways that a parent's good self-care can positively affect his or her child with mental illness.

Good Sleep Means More Energy

Regular sleep, according to the Center for Disease Control, is about 7- 8 hours a night. Regular sleep means more energy to take on the day. I know that my sleep issues keep me at low energy. So when Bob is extra hyper because his ADHD medication is out of his system, I have little energy to keep him occupied. When he was younger, it was very hard to keep him entertained. Now that he's older and my sleep issues haven't been as bad, I take him out to parks and activities that keep us both in motion. (read: Develop Good Sleep Habits)

Good Self-care Brings A Positive Mood

When I don't get enough rest, I'm a very cranky mommy. These days I spend a lot of my down time making sure to take good care of myself. And I've noticed a change. I'm in a more positive mood. I realized when I focused on myself, I could better care for Bob and meet his needs more readily. I found that he's listening better and is more motivated to make better choices. Why? Because my words are nicer. I work with him rather than pushing him like I usually do when I'm in a bad mood. I encourage him rather than nitpick at everything. And I'm more loving with my words than anything else. I'm also more patient with Bob when he can't focus.

Getting "Me Time" Gives You Appreciation

As a single mom, I usually get time away from Bob when he is at school and I'm at work. This isn't always a good thing. I love my son with all of my heart. But, he can drive me batty when I'm with him 24-7. So, something I began in 2011 was to make sure that Bob was spending time with his father so that I could get "me-time." Unfortunately, I had to take Bob's father to court to set up a visitation schedule, but it was the best thing I've ever done for myself. I appreciate Bob more when I have some time to have fun with my best friend. Bob is being taken care of and so am I. A single mom friend of mine with three daughters once told me that having scheduled time away from the kids is a blessing. The break is not only for Bob to bond with his father, but it is also for me to recharge my battery.

Hopefully, these brief tips have shown you that your child with mental illness will benefit in a dramatic way when you put self-care first. Not only will your special needs child learn how to manage his or her own issues, but he or she will see how good self-care can bring amazing things.

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APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2013, October 15). 3 Ways Self-Care is Good for Your Special Needs Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

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