8 Special Needs Parent Self Care Tips

Being a parent is hard work, and for moms and dads who have a child with special needs, the day-to-day can be especially taxing on your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. That’s why self-care for parents of children with special needs is especially important—and luckily, taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be expensive or even leisurely.

“Self-care is any purposeful action that improves your physical, mental, or emotional well-being,” explains Stacy Spensley, a certified holistic health coach and founder of The Semi-Crunchy Mama Club. “Making sure that parents stay healthy can make caregiving easier on everyone.”

In fact, did you know scheduling 15-20 minutes a date of “me” time can reduce stress, prevent caregiver burnout, and help you be a better, more present parent?

8 Parent Self Care Ideas for Parents of Children with Special Needs

If you’re ready, here are some easy ways to show yourself some love.

Ask friends and family for help.

Find someone you trust to watch your kids when you need a break. “It's essential to line up dependable help who can assist and care for children with special needs while parents take care of their emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs to reset and refresh their well-being,” explains Karen Aronian, Ed.D., a parenting and education expert.

Spend time outside every day.

Let the beauty of nature feed your soul, suggests Dana Humphrey, a life coach based in Queens. Walking has been shown to be valuable in improving mental health, particularly depression, so try to walk daily.

Reward yourself each day.

This isn’t about going out and spending money on designer clothes. It can be as simple as sitting alone on the porch looking at the sky for 10 minutes, taking an extra-long shower, texting someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time, buying a bouquet of flowers for yourself, etc., says Sarah Farmer, M.A., a special needs parent advocate and the mom of a daughter with special needs.

Schedule your “me” time.

Make sure any special time for yourself—whether it’s working out, having lunch with friends, or getting a manicure—is in your calendar or it will likely get pushed aside to take care of someone else’s needs.

Join a support group.

Farmer suggests finding a support group for parents of children with special needs that will serve as a safe space to vent, share ideas, mourn, share successes and failures, and more. “It’s a forum where you can be totally honest and not be judged,” she says. “These parents will ‘get’ you in a way no other set of parents will.

Just say no.

This can be one of the hardest things to do, but it’s an absolute necessity for your overall well-being. Creating boundaries and learning to say no also helps to bring your goals into sharper focus, Humphrey notes.

See a professional for help (if needed).

If you are feeling overwhelmed to the point of depression, have thoughts of self-harm, or feel anger with your child or yourself, find a professional who understands your situation and can give you tools for making life easier at home. If you aren’t functioning well mentally, it’s tough to parent a child with special needs, Farmer points out.

Be kind to yourself.

Yes, the situation can be hard, but you are doing it. Give yourself some credit, some self-compassion, and some kindness!