A few years back I wrote a post detailing the new year resolutions I would love to make as a special needs parent. I’m sure you’d be able to probably relate to them as well:
- Being more patient
- Cutting myself more slack
- Not comparing myself or my kids to other families
- Spending more time with my other children
- Worrying less about the future
While I would love to be able to make these resolutions and stick to them, I know it’s not possible.
I’ll never have enough patience (I am human after all!). I’m always going to be hard on myself – I have no harsher critic than myself. Comparison is something we all do, whether we’re conscious of it or not. I know I will always need to spend more time with my two older kids, due to their needs. And, worrying less? Why not ask me to not breathe, while you’re at it…there’s no chance that will ever happen!
I’m not a big resolution maker. In recent years, there has been no point in even trying to make resolutions as there have been so many challenges to overcome. I’ve learned to not tempt fate by making grand plans at the beginning of the year. Instead, I’ve focused on trying to get my mindset right so I can tackle whatever comes my way.
While I’m not looking to make grand resolutions this year, there are things I’d like to do better in 2019. I want to work on the little things to make my life more purposeful and positive. I want to create habits that will grow over time and lead to bigger changes, to make me the best parent I can be.
So, here are 7 resolutions I’d like to work on in 2019. I believe these are realistic, practical and beneficial for every parent and carer. I hope you think so too.
7 Realistic New Year Resolutions for Carers
Find time for myself as an individual
One of the big takeaways from the BUPA Caring for the Carer pilot I participated in last year was the need for carers to make time for themselves. In the program, they call it protected timeslots, times where you block out everything else and concentrate on doing something just for you. I’ve learned to protect Saturday mornings for my weekly parkrun with friends. Likewise, in school terms, I set aside time for a catchup one morning a week with one of my friends.
Obviously, there have been times I’ve had to forgo these outings – if I get a call from school, or if the kids or my husband are unwell. But I’ve learned to not let go of them for other reasons, like feeling tired or being overwhelmed. It’s important for my sanity and for my wellbeing to set aside these times to be me, rather than always being a carer. So, in 2019, I want to continue protecting these timeslots and maybe, somehow, find more time for myself as an individual.
Do the best I can but accept I am human
I don’t know about you, but guilt seems to follow me around, wherever I go. I’m always worrying that I’m not doing enough, or that I’m doing too much. I’m forever second guessing myself and my decisions, even after I spend way too much time mulling over them in the first place. I never feel that I am enough for anyone – as a wife, parent, carer or worker.
This is something I’ve been working on for years but I really need to finally accept that I am human and I can only do so much. I need to accept and finally believe that my best is enough. I cannot be expected to do it all, especially when I’m the one with the lofty expectations. I need to come to terms with the internal struggle I face as a carer and understand the toll this takes on my physical, emotional and mental health. 2019 has to be the year I finally accept that I am human and I am enough.
Open my mind to other points of view
I consider myself pretty open-minded but I know the next few years are going to test my ability to keep my mind open to every possibility. My son is 15 in a couple of months. I have a feeling I’m going to blink and miss the next few years and suddenly find myself helping him navigate a whole new world of higher education and employment. I’m determined to keep my mind open to every possibility and every opportunity that presents itself between now and then.
Keeping your mind open is an ongoing struggle. You need to learn to put your own assumptions, expectations and views to the side to allow room to take on new points of view. It’s personally challenging to consider that your own world view may not be the only one, let alone the right one. But keeping your mind open give you the best chance to find the positives, recognise opportunities and take advantage of every possibility, for you and for your child.
Trust in myself and my instincts
I’m pretty good at second guessing myself and doubting my abilities as a parent. Yes, even now, nearly 15 years into this special needs journey! It’s an ongoing battle as the goal posts are always shifting. You can never really get settled as something new always pops up to tip you off balance. And, as we enter a new phase, one where my son is gaining more independence, agency and control, my trust levels are being tested, as never before.
However, I should have more trust in my ability as a parent. My instincts have steered me well so far – they should be able to steer us through the upcoming challenges ahead. So, my resolution for this year is to renew my trust in my instincts. We may be entering new territory as a family, but we’ve done well so far. I may not know what’s ahead but if I can trust myself and trust in my son, I know we’ve got this.
Ask for help when I need it
Asking for help is hard – it really is. You are vulnerable when you seek assistance. It feels like you’re admitting defeat of some kind because you can no longer do it all. You are putting yourself in the hands of someone else, waiting for them to say yes or no. It can be truly overwhelming taking that first step, especially if you don’t have family or close friends to call on. It can be even harder if you’ve been burned, rejected or let down before when seeking assistance.
We’re lucky we have family to call upon but that network is shrinking as our parents age and have their own lives to live. In 2019, I need to look at developing broader networks to seek help. One step is to trust friends more and understand that it’s okay to ask for help from those who love and understand my kids, even if we’re not related. It’s also time to look at seeking community help to guide us through employment, further study and guiding our kids into adulthood.
Listen to my kids & build their self-advocacy
Building self-advocacy is important, especially as our kids grow older. We’ve been working on developing self-awareness and self-advocacy for some time but 2019 is the year to put these into action. It’s vital my older kids take a greater role in decision making and have the opportunity to decide on the direction we take with therapies. It won’t be long until they will be expected to take the lead on these decisions for themselves…scary but true.
I need to start loosening the reins in anticipation and teach them how to ask for help, seek accommodations and recognise when they need to seek assistance. Stepping back and letting them take the lead in IEP meetings will be a start, with the ultimate aim for them to be involved in their NDIS reviews later this year. It’s not going to be easy for any of us (especially me!) but helping my kids learn to advocate for themselves is probably our biggest priority for 2019.
Learn from adults who live with the same challenges as my kids
I’ve learned so much from disability advocates, especially #ActuallyAutistic adults. For 2019 I want to introduce my kids to this community too. My kids will benefit from having role models to look up to and they’ll gain an understanding of what they might be capable of and what challenges may lay ahead for them. Learning from those who have lived experience – adults living with the same conditions and facing the same challenges they do – is the perfect way to do this.
This is often an area we miss as parents and carers. We’re busy seeing specialists and therapists and consulting professionals, especially following a new diagnosis. However, it’s really important we balance these views with those of adults who have gone before us and our kids. When you think about it, their input and lived experience is far more valuable that those of the specialists and therapists who have never lived with the condition themselves. It’s so important we, as parents, take the time to listen and learn from adults who live with the same challenges as our kids.
Do you have any realistic new year resolutions to add to the list?