One of the most basic parental/behavioral strategies involves keeping calm — tone, attitude, words, behaviors — when your child/student with ASD has a meltdown. We can all attest to how NOT doing those things makes the situation even more difficult.
But, remaining calm is a whole light year’s difference from actually taking a break from our kids, isn’t it? New research suggests not. In a recent study completed by the Organization for Autism Research, investigators found that parental stress level PREDICTS child behavior problems, but child behavior problems do not predict parental stress. The stress created by the diagnosis, by work, by other kids, by life has collateral impact. That causes me a moment’s pause.
I’ve always said that when working with individuals with ASDs, I have to be “on” and in the moment. If I’m “off my game”, I should stick to the bench. Parents do not have that luxury of sitting a quarter out, so finding time to get back on your A-Game is hard enough. Finding time to relax probably seems quite unrealistic.
But necessary. By finding ways to relax, parents are presented with the opportunity to positively effect change in the behavior of their child. Me-time has never sounded so good, so I thought I would help all of the me-deprived people and generate some ideas for how to help yourself and your child.
1. Date Night — I know what you are thinking, no way. We have to prepare and pay the babysitter. What if…what if…what if…. Most parents I work with have not been separated for longer than a school day from their child since birth. The harsh reality is that such a pattern cannot exist forever. While that seems far off, remind yourself that leaving your child at school was once hard. You conquered that.
2. What’s your favorite thing to do when alone? One mom told me: “Do the crossword puzzle in pen and drink a hot cup of tea.” “How long does that take?” I asked. “Oh, maybe ten minutes.” TEN MINUTES. Don’t jet off to Paris, just find your own small slice of heaven at home.
3. Go to pick up the kids early from school. Sit in the van or the car reading your favorite book or magazine or drinking a cup of coffee alone, silently. Yes, sure, park the vehicle near the back of the parking lot so that others don’t give you a weird — or more to the point, jealous — glance.
What have you tried? What works for you?