As parents, taking care of your mental health often gets overlooked. You can become burnt-out, guilty, resentful — often grappling with inner conflict whilst also trying to manage every day life.

All of these warring emotions have subsequent impacts on your children; even if they don’t understand exactly what’s going on for you, they’ll know that something isn’t quite right (which can result in bad behaviour and mood or sleep disturbances among others). If your child has disabilities, this effect may be even more pronounced. Oftentimes, people with visual impairments  have additional disorders — some of us are physically impaired, whereas others have cognitive difficulties or additional sensory disabilities (e.g. being d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing) — which only complicates things further.

Before I continue, I feel the need to first highlight the importance of taking care of you, for you. You shouldn’t feel the need to only engage in self-care for the sake of your children or other loved ones, but I know many people find that to be an impossible task (hence the inclusion of children’s emotions in this post). So, without further ado, here are three things you can do to improve your own mental health — and, by extension, your child’s — as a parent to a disabled youngster:

Take some time for yourself

Whether it’s a moment in the kitchen, leaning against the counter as you take a few deep breaths, having a glass of wine after you’ve put the kids to bed, or going for a spa day with your friends, it’s important to have some you time amidst all the chaos of daily life. Taking a break is absolutely imperative to both improve your relationship with your children, and also your relationship with yourself.

Relieve some of the pressure

In the modern world, there are so many sources of strain and distress — from pressing work deadlines to comparing your body to those seen on social media — which can often be too much for us to cope with. Making a condensed list of your responsibilities and creating a structured plan can really help, but so can spending time with friends, meditation, and, most importantly, letting yourself know it’s okay. Nothing matters more than your own health and happiness, so it’s vital that you find a way to decompress and relax a little.

Communicate honestly about how you’re feeling

Obviously, there are some things which aren’t appropriate to share with children, but, even so, talking about how you’re feeling in an open, easily-comprehensible manner may enable them to better understand how you’re feeling, and may even show them how to adjust their behaviour accordingly. For example, if you tell them that you’re feeling tired, or even upset, they might try to behave really well in order to give you a helping hand. Not only will communicating enable your children to better empathise with you, but it could also alleviate some of the stress you’re feeling.

According to the CDC, one in fourteen children have a caregiver with mental health problems. We clearly need to prioritise parents’ mental health — both for the parents themselves, and for their children’s mental health, too — and (hopefully) this blog post can help you to begin your journey towards healing. It’s easy to feel as though you don’t have the permission to prioritise your own wellbeing, particularly as the parent to a disabled child. Take this post as your sign to do exactly that.

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