Support for parents

In this issue, we will be looking at the importance of support for parents and caregivers of children with physical disabilities.  Often parents spend all their time, effort and energy making sure that their children are well and very seldom focus on themselves.

Parents are faced with many barriers, such as physical and psychological demands, which includes  coping with additional medical expenses,  dressing and feeding their children, stress and financial pressure. In certain communities, there is still a stigma attached to having a child with a disability and some parents are shunned. Some parents battle to accept that their child has a disability and do not receive adequate support. It is important that parents look after their physical and emotional needs. If they do not care for themselves, many caregivers risk burning out, which is not beneficial to anyone.. Parents need to be in a healthy frame of mind, as they cannot help their child if they are stressed, exhausted and emotionally drained. On the other hand, parents who look after their own needs are better able to cope with the daily stresses and better able to relate and help their children. While every person and family is different and there is ‘no one size fits all’ magic pill, here are some coping strategies that parents may find helpful.

Tips for looking after yourself

  • Learn how to manage your own stress.
  • Make time for yourself each day, even if it is a 10 minute walk alone.
  • Keep the lines of communication open with your spouse/partner, family, and friends.
  • Arrange a ‘date night’ once a month with your spouse/partner or friends.
  • Be brave enough to ask for help when you need it and when it is offered.
  • Don’t isolate yourself rather try spending time with family and friends.
  •  Many friends and family want to help but do not know what you need. Speak to them about your feelings and needs and let them know what they can do to help.
  • Make sure you eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep, whenever possible.
  • Arrange play dates with other families with children with similar disabilities from your child’s school. This can be a great way for the children to socialise outside the schooling environment and can also be beneficial for parents to chat to other parents who have children with physical disabilities.
  • Speak to your child’s school or doctor and ask them if there are support groups that you could join. The encouragement and advice you’ll get from other parents can be invaluable.
  •  Often parents feel overwhelmed and out of their comfort zone. Find out more about your child’s disability by asking your doctors, school, and therapists or searching the Internet.
  • There are a number of online support groups for parents. Have a look and see which you feel most comfortable visiting. You may find some new ideas and benefit from gaining perspective from other parents in similar situations.