Four Tips for Managing the Stress of Parenting a Special Needs Child

Parenting brings many joys. But it also can bring a lot of stress, which can be compounded if you are a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorders or developmental challenges. Building resiliency can be useful in facing these challenges. Here are four tips that may help.

1. Laugh

It may sound counterintuitive, but consciously trying to lighten the mood can help you deal with intense situations. Positive humor at home can actually strengthen your relationships with your spouse and children. Try avoiding the news and watch comedies or cartoons that make you giggle instead. Check out funny books from the library, or add some books of jokes to your bedside table. Finding small ways to laugh about your own everyday situations will melt stress. Even if it feels forced at first, practice chuckling and it will soon turn into spontaneous laughter. A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but studies are increasing about the positive effects of laughter.

2. Be active

Activity in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Exercise boosts your feel-good endorphins and focusing on the movement will distract you from daily worries. The good news is that exercise doesn’t have to be done at the gym or include a formalized program to alleviate stress. Even a walk around the block or dancing to your favorite tunes in the kitchen can make a difference. Exercise can increase your self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with stress or anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by the stress of caring for a special needs child.

3. Find support systems

Having social support is very helpful in decreasing parenting stress. For example, if extended family is available ask them to provide childcare for a few hours during the week to give you a break for yourself. Support systems may also be helpful to provide an avenue for you to talk with others about how they cope with being a parent. It is always good to hear how others have addressed a problem or find that you are not alone. One option is to join the Kids Who Count Family Support Group and meet other parents who are managing the challenges and opportunities that come with having a child with special needs. This group meets Tuesday mornings from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and limited childcare is also available. Go to for more information.

4. Seek professional help 

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, seek professional help from a psychologist or licensed mental health professional. A psychologist can be helpful to provide strategies to help you cope with life’s challenges. Additionally, they may be able to provide you with resources to help improve your child’s functioning and decrease problem behaviors that may increase parenting stress. Call the Kids Who Count offices at (801) 423-3000 if you need help finding qualified professionals for either you or your child.






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