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Updated: May 16, 2023

Kindness is ingrained in us from an early age. We are trained to always be kind to others. As a result, we generously give up our time and effort to care for others and put ourselves on the back burner at the risk of our own mental and emotional health. This is significantly compounded for parents of children with special needs, who often sacrifice self-care. For our mental, physical, and emotional health, self-care is essential. Building resilience against those pressures that you cannot avoid in your life requires self-care. Giving ourselves the same love and respect as we do for others is what self-compassion entails. Here are five essential self-care practices I encourage you to try.

1. Start being kind to yourself

Avoid self-criticism and quiet the inner critic who is constantly speaking negatively about you. To practice self-care, it's important to keep in mind that you always have the choice to ignore or listen to that critical voice. Divert your attention by thinking about your positive traits. This is the first step to putting an end to self-judgment and realizing that negative self-talk is only a way for you to express your concerns and insecurities and shouldn't be viewed as an objective evaluation of yourself.

2. Try something new

Try getting out of your comfort zone. Putting your body and mind to work on something you're unsure of can inspire you greatly. When you're in a rut, your chances of boosting your self-esteem are diminished. However, choosing to push yourself with novel hobbies will offer your self-esteem a tremendous boost. Don't feel pressured to skydive; it doesn't have to be something extreme. It might be as easy as trying a new lunch spot instead of going to your usual go-to spot. Or taking up a new hobby (may I suggest gardening?) You realize how flexible and adaptive you are when you try something new. It's also important to remind yourself that there is more to you than a parent/caretaker.

3. Praise and motivate yourself

Do you expect perfection from your children or others in your life? My guess is no. Why, then, do we expect perfection from ourselves? It's time to reset that kind of destructive thinking. The next time you make a mistake, treat yourself like you would treat your child. Consider the use of comforting phrases and feelings you would use to reassure your child in a similar circumstance, as well as the type of support that you would offer them, and extend that same grace to yourself.

book the high 5 habit

This has never been an easy feat for me, personally. I have always been incredibly self-critical. The High 5 Habit by Mel Robbins is a wonderful read on cultivating a positive self-image. I highly recommend it if this is an area of self-care that you are personally struggling with.

You can even read it for free with a free month of


kindle unlimited

4. Pay attention to what your body needs

When you feel restless, ask yourself about the nurturing things that you can do for yourself. Your body may require a walk at times, while other times it may only want you to sit or stay in bed. While the chaos of life is inevitable and sometimes we have to exert more energy than we feel capable of. But it's important to understand our limits. Do not exert yourself simply because you believe you should if your body is in need of rest.

5. Seek respite care

Being the sole or primary caregiver of a child with special needs is exhausting. I speak from both personal experiences, as well as my many years of professional experience. It's vital to ask for a break and allow yourself a chance to regroup. Seek a trusted friend or family member to watch your children if that is an option. Otherwise, reach out to your community. There are resources out there that may be able to provide respite care funding for families of children with special needs.

Self-care is as essential to one’s life as water. In addition to making you realize how deserving you are of kindness, practicing self-care can help you feel less stressed, more confident, and better able to live a well-rounded life.

Never forget, mental health matters. The mental health of your loved ones AND you.

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