9 ways to relax and get emotional support as a parent/carer
Posted on the 17th December 2017
One topic of conversation that we regularly see popping up between parents and carers is emotional wellbeing and support. We all know that taking care of a child with an ongoing health problem can be extremely challenging, and with parents and carers having such little time for themselves after caring for children, running between appointments, keeping houses running, working, not sleeping and generally juggling everyday life, what do you do to look after yourself?
With contributions from our Wellchild Family Tree members we have come up with some suggestions that we hope will help with coping with the emotional effects of having a family member with exceptional health needs.
“Mindfulness meditation changed my life – Mark Williams or Jason Stephenson are my preferences,”
“Sounds crazy but I started buying The Sun newspaper 50p. Read briefly but I take the puzzle pages out and fold it up so it’s in my bag when out,”
“Go for a walk, plod or run, it’s the best way to distress, or, bake a cake, both are very therapeutic, I do both when I’m having a hard day. Big bubble bath, tea and an early night may also do the trick,”
“I try to get outside if possible, even if it’s just to dead head some flowers or pull out a couple of weeds. If I can get further afield, a dog walk. Look around you, take notice of what you see and take some deep breaths. Doesn’t matter what the weather’s like,” Tamsin.
“I’ve started gardening – growing vegetables. It’s easy and there’s something about growing veg from tiny seeds that is very satisfying and stress relieving,” Natalie.
“I do cross stitch in the evenings; it’s my escape and has helped immensely over the years. Also colouring has helped in the past too”, Helen.
“Headspace is a fabulous mindfulness tool that’s free. It talks you through the sessions. I have it on my phone on the app (although I need to use it much more). I do recommend it though”, Jill.
“Walking the dog, training for riding London to Paris (though at the moment that feels somewhat unachievable). Baking is a massive help for me too”, Vickey.
“I find listening to music on my earphones helps me sometimes”, Jo.
None of these may appeal to you and it may take time for you to find out what it is that gives you that bit of escapism but it’s important to make sure you do have some time to yourself, no matter how small.
All families, parents and children are individuals and therefore unique, and something that works for one parent may not work for another. However, as a parent you need to look after yourself physically, emotionally, socially and practically.
Steve, WellChild Family Tree Member
With Christmas just a few days away, Faith has also put together a series of video diaries about how she prepares for Christmas when she has a child with exceptional health needs. You can watch these here>>
Some other Christmas tips that may help:
Create a ‘calm space’ that you can take your child to if they become over-stimulated or anxious. Allow them to take 20-minutes or so out from what can be a very busy and emotional day, or however long they need. This is particularly important if you’re spending Christmas or Boxing Day at a relative’s house.
If your child is bothered by noise, consider favourite music. Perhaps also something that smells familiar when all the smells of Christmas are so different.
Remove awkward packaging from presents and insert batteries as needed beforehand. That way there are no lengthy delays that can potentially frustrate your child.
Finding people that you can talk to about how you are feeling may also help. You might find that you talk to different people about different things and it doesn’t always have to be your partner. One way to do this is by joining a support group where you can meet and talk with other parents who care for a child with similar health needs.
The WellChild Family Tree’s online forum offers you the opportunity to meet others who are in a similar situation, and who understand some of what you are going through. It will also give you a chance to hear how other parents manage, as well as give you the opportunity to learn and share some useful ideas anytime of the day or night. WellChild Family Tree Network
We also have a team of Parent Ambassadors across the UK who are looking to arrange meet-ups in their local areas, so please keep an eye out for update on this in the new year.
Ask for help and support from others. Friends and family are often more than willing to help out, but often they aren’t sure what the best thing to do is. Accept offers of practical help, let them know what you would find useful and don’t be afraid to ask. It is a strength not a weakness and gives you time for other things in your schedule. Whether it’s helping with childcare, popping to the shops, doing the ironing, these things can often make a big difference in helping to lighten the load.
Get support from health professionals if you feeling overwhelmed. If you feel that you are struggling with caring for your child please speak to your GP or a social worker at your local hospital that may be able to refer you for professional guidance as well as any local support groups they feel may help.
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