By Catherine Rose
There are a lot of people telling you that your life is hard and I’m not here to say that they are wrong. Your life is hard. I know, because I am living it too. Being a parent in general is probably one of the most difficult things we do, but when you throw disabilities and special needs into the mix life can sometimes become completely overwhelming.
But you know what? We can still be happy. I consider myself a focused, organized and dedicated person. But above all else the characteristic I cherish most is my happiness, because that’s what gets me through the hard times and keeps me going.
Do you want to be happy too? Here are some tips that might help…
1. Do Something You Like
Maybe the things you used to do before you had kids don’t quite fit in to your schedule anymore, but that’s ok! As parents we need to find things that we can do that make us feel good while still caring for our kids. I love to play piano, for example, and my daughter loves to sit with me and listen to what I play (she also loves to help create her own music on the piano keys). We both love to attend basketball games, so we are part of a program at a local college so we can attend their women’s basketball games. Finding something you like may be as easy as taking a 20 minute break in your day to just read or listen to a favorite podcast, but make sure you fit in time for things that make you happy.
2. Make New Friends
Most of us connect with other families in similar situations as us, whether that’s through our children’s school or through online groups for parents raising kids with special needs. Try to find people that match your style and can hold conversations that you can relate to. There’s more to friendship than just talking about your kids, so gravitate towards people you can relate to on a personal level too!
3. Learn Something New
Keeping your mind occupied is a great way to maintain your happiness and with a special needs kiddo there is a lot out there for you to learn. Start by getting to now EVERYTHING there is to know about your kid. Become their expert. Advocating from a point of expertise is power. A power that no one can take away.
4. Stop Judging Yourself
We all have a tendency to worry that we aren’t doing enough, especially when raising kids with complex needs. It’s even worse if we compare ourselves and our kids to others. Just focus on what you are doing and be content in the knowledge that you are doing all that you can.
5. Don’t Focus on What Isn’t
You need to realize that some things might be hard to do now with your family. Hold the happy memories close, but don’t wallow in the “has beens” or “what ifs”. It’s best to look forward.
6. Automate Everything
Not just the tedious chores. Automate anything and everything that can be automated to make your life easier. Set up auto bill pay, recurring Amazon purchases, auto refill at your pharmacy, and anything else you can think of. Basically get it so you aren’t eating away your precious time (which gives you more time to spend finding things you like to do).
7. Stop Being Around Unhappy People
Are there complainers in your life? Can you get rid of them? This includes your FACEBOOK feed too! For me this also includes coworkers or healthcare practitioners. If we see a doctor who tells me my child will never do something, they get voted off the team. If you have friends that constantly tell you “you’re a party pooper” because you don’t accept or mold to them, well, they are just not your friends. If coworkers are always talking about how bad their lives are, they get voted off the planet.
8. Be Grateful
For every day your kid lives, there is another family who is going through the unthinkable pain of losing their kid. I’m not saying “it could always be worse,” but if you need a reminder of the positive in your life, start a gratitude journal.
Being happy doesn’t just happen, it’s a skill that you need to work on and hone, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your other feelings. Be real with your emotions and remember happy isn’t for every moment. There are times that I’m mad, frustrated, sad or just downright broken-hearted. Working on being happy is all about stacking the scales so happiness comes easier… but sometimes the crazy does comes through.