Self-Care for Parents & Caregivers: Some Tips for Special Needs Families

How to look after yourself as a parent of a child with additional needs?

So many times as a therapist we have worked with families who could benefit from some time out!

While a full break away is not always possible, we have the pleasure of sharing a blog written by the lovely Michelle Alexander, Psychologist at KC Psych, sharing her tips on parent-self care and some simple things you can do to re-set and take care of your own mental health as you support your children.



Self Care for Parents and Caregivers

There are numerous studies that suggest parents who have children with developmental delays, behavioural/emotional challenges or chronic health needs often experience higher levels of stress than parents not caring for children with special needs.

Being a parent is one of the most challenging roles in our lives and it is therefore essential we take steps to provide ourselves with self-care.


Here are some self-care tips you can try:


  1. Exercise:

    Yes, I know what you’re thinking….when I am going to find the time to exercise?

    Finding the time to exercise has always been worth the effort in the long run. I always come back from the park or from a walk feeling refreshed and ready for the rest of the day.


Some get active ideas:


  • When my child was younger I often strapped my little one in the stroller and had a power walk.


  • Going to the park is excellent strategies to let your older children release some energy.I found a game of TAG would tire them out and left me feeling like a just had a good cardio session! You could also modify this to your fitness level by doing gentle squats, walking around the play area or mild stretching exercises.


  • Family night walks. This has become a family favourite and gives us time to all be together.


  1. Healthy Nutrition

When speaking to parents I have often noticed we take more care in providing our children with healthy nutrition than ourselves.

We are important too!

If you don’t have a lot of time to prepare meals there are many meal preparation service options available.

This is not always an option as they can be quite expensive.

Take small steps each day to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet.

There are also a variety of easy and fast nutritious recipes on the Internet you can try to keep it interesting!

  1. Sleep/Respite

I think I spent the first few years as a parent of trying to get enough sleep and not always succeeding.

This greatly impacts on your thoughts and feelings and your ability to cope with parenting.

When my children were young, I found it helpful to nap when my children were napping.

Asking family and friends members if they can care for your child while you take a rest.

Hiring a babysitter is also a good option to give you time to have a break.

Remember: The laundry and the housework can wait. 


  1. Prioritising What’s Important- Saying “No”

Being a parent can be a tricky business!

It can be easy to get caught into the trap of making everyone happy but yourself.

I have learnt to say “No” to extra activities I just don’t have time for during the day.

That means setting limits to the number play dates and birthday parties and yes, even volunteering at the school tuck shop.

What I got back in return is a sense that I can manage my own routine rather than piling on another responsibility to the list.


  1. Taking Time Out For Yourself- It’s ok to ask for help

How can we take care of other people when we are not taking care of ourselves?

It’s important to find time for yourself to go for a walk, do some deep breathing, have a bath, call a friend, or even some quiet time.

Sometimes, when caring for another we forget about ourselves and become stressed and isolated.

It’s important to reach out to family and friends and ask for help if you need it.

It’s important that you have regular check-ups with the GP to ensure your health and well-being too.


These are just a few suggestions on how you can take care of yourself when parenting children with special needs.

There are so many other things you can do to support your health and mental well-being.

Being a good parent doesn’t mean we are perfect. We aren’t always going to get it right.

Being a good enough parent is enough.

If you would like to speak to a psychologist to give you more suggestions please feel free to contact us. We are here to listen.

By Michelle Alexander Psychologist MAPS

Click here to connect with KCPsych(Child & Family Team)

T: 07 3256 6320


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