How to Look after Your Own Mental Health as a Parent of a Special Needs Child

As a parent of a child with special needs, you may find yourself constantly worrying about the inconsiderate behavior of strangers, the pressure of providing constant care, or whether or not your child will ever be able to live a “normal” life. In all this, you may neglect your mental and physical health.

Physical health still gets noticed and taken care of more often than mental health, but as a parent, you need to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself too. Without mental stability and strong emotional health, it becomes more challenging to be your child’s caretaker.

The following useful tips will help you maintain your mental health.

Know What You’re Dealing With:

One major cause of concern for parents is the fear of the unknown. When you don’t know your child’s condition, it can be hard to prepare for and deal with different challenges. There are various conditions like autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, down syndrome, etc., that your child could be diagnosed with, and each comes with its own set of challenges. Some of these conditions can result from genetic mutation, while others can be caused by exposure to certain toxins or viruses. Medical negligence during pregnancy or delivery can also result in a child being born with special needs. To find the sweet calm in the eye of the storm, you must educate yourself about your child’s condition. Resources available at can help you get started.

Get a Support System:

Do you feel you’re not understood? Do you feel you’re up against the world? If so, it’s essential to have a supportive network to help you feel validated and not alone. It could be your family members, a group of friends, or even an online community of parents in similar situations. These people can offer a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent to, or simply a friendly chat. Sometimes, all that’s required is knowing you’re not alone in this. So before you pull out all your hair in frustration, seek a support system. There’s nothing embarrassing or “weak” in admitting that you need help. You can talk about the mundane things like what you had for dinner or how your day was without feeling like you’re burdened with the world’s weight.

Make Time for Yourself:

It is easier said than done! If not the prying eyes of family, then the constant calls from school or daycare can make it hard for you to even take a trip to the restroom, let alone have some “me time.” However, it is important to make time for yourself every day, even if it’s just 15 to 20 minutes. It will help you relax and rejuvenate so that you can be better prepared to deal with whatever the day throws at you. If possible, take a break from your caring duties now and then and have someone else take over. Go out with friends, read a book, or just take a long, hot bath. Do whatever eases your mind from constantly being on the go. And while you’re away from your child, treating yourself as royalty (once in a while), don’t feel guilty about it!

Set Realistic Expectations:

You want the best for your child. No one would indeed love them as much as you do. But, it’s also true that you can’t do it all by yourself. As much as you want to, you’re not a superhero. You’re only human. Don’t try to be perfect because no one is. Set realistic expectations. Trying to handle too much at once will only cause disappointment, frustration, and resentment. You can hire help like a trained professional or babysitter to give you a break now and then.

Another aspect of high expectations involves your child accomplishing certain milestones. Each child is distinct and will develop at their own pace. Comparing your child to others will make you feel like you’re falling short. Accept and love them for who they are and help them grow at their own pace.

Get Enough Sleep:

Between regular life and caring for a special needs child, it can be hard to get a full night’s sleep. You may spend nights worrying about your child and their future. While it’s important to be there for your child, you must also take care of yourself. Getting enough sleep will help reduce stress, ease anxiety, and improve mood. It will also make you more alert and able to think clearly. If possible, get up to seven to eight hours of undisturbed sleep every night. If you’re struggling with sleeplessness, you can practice meditation, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques before bedtime. You can also try taking a calming bath with a stress-relieving essential oil like lavender. Studies have shown that these methods can help improve sleep quality.


Many people confuse exercise as a way to manage weight. However, it’s also a great way to manage stress. When you flex your muscles, your body releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Exercise can also help improve sleep quality and increase energy levels. Even a brisk walk around the park can help clear your head and relieve stress. If you lack motivation or don’t “feel” like exercising, try working out with a friend or family member. Having company (even if it’s silent) can make all the difference. You can also download step-tracking apps or join online communities to help you stay motivated. And, when you’re out in the open, breathing fresh air, allowing the nerves in your brains to detangle, you may even have a few moments of pure joy. And those are very well deserved!

Work on your Relationship with Your Child:

Certain conditions like autism and ADHD can make it difficult for children to express themselves. As a result, parents may feel like they’re always guessing what their child is thinking or feeling. However, you can work on your relationship with your child to better understand them. One way is to keep a journal. Jot down any observations you make about your child’s behavior, mood, or anything else that stands out to you. It will help you track patterns and notice any changes. You can also try using visual aids like picture cards or social stories to help your child communicate their needs. Lastly, make sure to spend quality time with your child every day. It can be anything from reading a book together to building blocks. The important thing is that you’re spending time bonding and building a relationship.


Being a parent is a difficult job. Being a parent of a child with special needs is even more difficult. However, taking care of your mental health is vital to being the best parent possible. You don’t have to rush it and set everything in stone from the get-go. Just remember to be patient, take things one day at a time, and reach out for help when you need it. These tips will help you take care of your mental health to better care for your child.

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