It’s a long journey: caring for yourself is crucial

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Life can be exhausting and stressful. Sometimes it’s important to just focus on self-care, and to celebrate what you have achieved together.

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Parenting any child can be a challenge at times, and parents and carers of children and young people with disabilities often experience additional pressures and expectations. The support system in schools is dependent on your active involvement. You might be managing and advocating for your child with multiple health and support services. Depending on their disability, many children and young people require a relatively high level of support, which is primarily provided by families. And many parents and carers are also balancing the needs of other children, work, relationships and other caring responsibilities.

You can’t do everything, all the time

A key aspect of self-care is to conserve your energy for what matters most. You have the right to raise a concern about any aspect of your child’s education. But sometimes there’s just too many pressures on families, and it’s too much to add in the work and stress of raising an(other) issue with school.

It’s important to try not to judge yourself under those circumstances. Anything you can do to support and advocate for your child has value. Your child will be in school for many years. It’s very likely that you will have a chance to tackle the issue at another time, when you have more energy or support. Many parents and carers refer to this as ‘picking your battles’.

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It’s a long journey – so look after yourself

Self-care is crucial. Few of us can be good advocates for our children if we are burned out and exhausted. It can be very difficult for parents and carers who put so much energy into the needs of others to stop for a moment, and to focus on their own needs, and on what they’ve achieved. But doing so can benefit everyone in the family:

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Take a breather and notice what is working

When advocating for your child becomes very stressful, it might help to focus on what is working. And to just try to enjoy family life, and appreciate what you have achieved together.

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Tell people when things are tough for you

Sometimes its difficult for those who are not parents or carers of someone with a disability like your child’s to understand what kind of pressures you might be under. Even school staff might have little understanding of what it is like to care for your child overnight, for example. Sharing that information with them might help them to understand when you need to prioritise, and be shown a little more consideration:

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Reach out for the supports you need

You need to feel supported, in order to support and advocate for your child. Different people need different things in order to feel supported, to reduce or manage their stress, and to make caring and advocating for their children sustainable in the long term.

For many parents and carers, respite care is essential, so they can have a break to see friend, or do something for themselves such as exercise.

Some parents and carers do not feel comfortable with respite – for them, assistance in the home so they can focus on their child might be a better option. Make sure you explore all the options for respite, support and care, by talking with the Department of Health and Human Services and your local Council. The options for support and respite are likely to change in the near future as the NDIS rolls out. Visit this website and stay in touch with ACD for updates.

Many parents and carers benefit from specific support for their own emotional wellbeing or mental health, such as a counsellor, or from self-care activities such as yoga or meditation. You can get subsidies from Medicare for carer counselling, and there are also mindfulness/meditation courses aimed at helping carers manage stress and feel calmer in their everyday life.

Some parents and carers benefit from attending groups or activities and making connections with families of children and young people with disabilities:

Often such groups can provide both a social outlet, and a sense that other people in the community share and understand the pressures you might be experiencing:

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