The reality of having a child diagnosed with autism is hard and full of challenges for every member of the family. Children with special needs require support from parents, siblings, and even grandparents, and the effort can be both physically exhausting and emotionally stressful.
Parents, obviously, carry the greatest weight, coping with deficits and excesses in behavior of a child with autism. Given that most children with autism can’t express themselves in traditional manners, their parents are left to continually guess what their child needs. As a child with autism might not be accepted or understood by other people, at least one parent may need to sacrifice aspects of a social life to stay at home with the child at all times.
Layered atop feelings of helplessness about the child’s future, these parents can get frustrated imagining how their child will be taken care of after they are gone.
Of course, parents aren’t the only ones who feel stressed in this sort of situation. Siblings may feel embarrassed for having a sibling that is not “normal,” may be concerned about being the target of aggression, or may even be envious of the amount of attention their autistic sibling receives.
Taking A Break
To maintain a harmonious, loving family life, plan to take regular breaks. Because, while parents might feel guilty for leaving a special child behind, those few hours of “me” time may provide a chance to catch their breath ahead of the next day’s challenges.
Many parents find it worthwhile to ask for pockets of time as support from aunts, uncles or grandparents. Having relatives or close friends look after the child for a few hours a week may well be the difference in whether or not parents burn out.
Finally, it’s critical that parents spend quality time alone with their non-ADS children. This reassures siblings that the parents love them as much their other child, even if most of the attention is geared towards the one with special needs.
After all, life with a child with autism is hard, but there’s no need to make life even harder for everybody else in the family. Taking a few hours off, both for yourself and for your other children, is the best way to get you through the worst of it all.
And remember…when times get tough … breathe deeply before you respond.