Autism and Reducing Stress: Caring for the Carer

April 5, 2016 Published by

Parenting can be stressful at the best of times, but when you have a child with autism, or any special need that requires extra care, it can be all the more exhausting. But there’s no reason to hold your hands up and quit, or resign yourself to a lifetime of being stressed and tired. Even small changes in your everyday life can have an effect, as Dr Shivani Sharma explains:

Reduce Stress Levels by Shopping Somewhere New

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When it comes to raising a young child with autism, much research has focused on the parenting role, particularly the unique challenges associated with caregiving. In our research we considered how to help alleviate the strain on carers, specifically using methods that might be suited to mothers who often have less time on their hands in between managing various commitments.


Rather than focusing on child behaviour, which is commonly cited by parents as a prominent stressor, we based our approach around providing daily uplifts. We asked mothers to try a small task each day for a month. Some examples include listening to a different radio station, shopping somewhere new and taking a long bath if they don’t usually do so.

 

Making these daily adjustments had a positive effect on maternal stress levels when compared to a matched group who did not engage in these types of activities.

 

When we asked mothers about their experience of the daily uplifts, they mentioned that it was nice to have something different and achievable to look forward to and that they were constant reminders to take time for themselves. Mothers commented on how changing their habits made them feel much better and more in control of their emotions.

 

So, while parenting necessitates care and attention towards children, it is also important for parents to take time to look after themselves.

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Parents who are tired, stressed and stretched to their limits are not in the best position to raise happy contented children, and this can lead to feelings of failure and guilt, among other health problems. Children learn best by copying, so seeing their parents happy, confident and relaxed is great for them, as well as you.

Now I’m off to have an extra-long bath.

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Dr Shivani Sharma is a psychologist based at the University of Hertfordshire. As part of her doctoral research, she has explored strategies to help reduce the experience of parenting stress in mothers of children with autism.

 

 

 


Photo Credit: Window Shopping by Antoine K licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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