Taking care of yourself when you have a child with physical, emotional, or behavioral problems

Being a parent of a child with physical, emotional, or behavioral problems brings many challenges and frustrations, which can lead to exhaustion. Make efforts to take good care of your physical and emotional health. Doing so will help provide you with needed energy to care for your child with special needs.

  • Schedule time for yourself. Use a calendar, planner, or organizer to set aside specific times for buying and cooking healthy foods, exercising, resting, visiting with friends, and doing other activities you enjoy.
  • Learn ways to handle the normal range of emotions, fears, and concerns that go along with raising a child with special needs. Seek information about your child's condition so that you will know what to expect. Learn relaxation techniques and how to recognize when you need to use them. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
  • Find out whether there is a support group in your area for parents of children with the same condition. Local and national groups can help connect families and provide much-needed sources of information. Usually your doctor or local hospital can recommend some of these organizations.
  • Seek and accept support from others. Do not wait for information and assistance to come to you. Consider using respite care, which is a family support service that provides a break for parents and siblings. Trained personnel can relieve family members from caregiving duties as needed. These breaks can help families communicate in a less stressful context and allow parents to focus complete attention on their other children for a while. Talk to your doctor and investigate what help is available locally. Research what kind of help may be available through government programs (federal, state, and local), nonprofit organizations, or other community resources.
  • Talk with your doctor or another health professional if you think you or another family member may be depressed or having other emotional difficulties.

Last Updated: August 4, 2009

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