Special needs parenting is a difficult and demanding journey to walk down. As special needs parents we are more than just parenting children. We are in home therapists, caretakers, and advocates on top of all the other typical mom roles. If we are to continue down this journey for the long haul, we need to get respite occasionally. We can’t take on the role of special needs parenting without acknowledging that we as parents will also have special needs simply because we are special needs parents.

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I don’t say this to sound like we have it rough, or imply that we don’t have what it takes to raise our special needs kids. I say this from a place of learning the hard way the importance of taking care of ourselves too. You see, we can’t continue to be the best possible parent to our children if we don’t take care of ourselves as well. Friends, we need respite. The longer you’ve been a special needs parent, the more you’ll realize this to be true.

So what is respite exactly? Essentially, respite is a period of rest or relief from something that is difficult. Respite can take many shapes and forms. Here are a few I’ve found to be helpful.

Vacation Without the Kids

In an ideal world, this would be happening every year. Taking an extended period of time for respite is probably the most effective form of respite I can think of . Not only is it a great time for rest, it’s also a great way to strengthen your marriage.

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Unfortunately, the reality of special needs parenting means the budget usually doesn’t allow for a vacation without the kids on an annual basis. That being said, the benefits of this kind of respite are amazing. Speaking from experience, I can say that nothing will leave you more rejuvenated than an actual vacation. I encourage you to try to make a vacation happen without the kids at least every few years. My husband and I have done this twice, and we’re hoping to do it again next year.

Respite Weekend

Respite weekends can happen in a variety of ways. You might be able to find retreats in your area for special needs parents. These retreats can be a great way to get connected with other special needs parents and learn from each other.

If retreats aren’t a possibility, a weekend get away might be your ticket. These can take many forms as well. Maybe you get a hotel room, go camping, or even just stay home for the weekend after dropping the kids off with grandpa and grandma.

This past weekend we took the kids to my parent’s house. They watched the kids for us, and we used their camper and camped in their yard! They live out in the country and my dad runs a business there. We simply parked the camper behind the building he runs the business from. The kids had no idea where we were.  It was fun. We got the respite we needed, and didn’t spend a fortune to get it!

The Couple Hour Respite

Sometimes a weekend away just isn’t a practical option on a regular basis. I get that. After all we spend so much of our financial resources on meeting our children’s medical needs that a weekend away or vacation seems like a lofty dream. This is why we are also working on implementing a plan for a couple hours of respite a couple times a month.

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Again, a couple hours of respite can do a world of good. Especially if this happens on a regular basis. Sometimes, we have grandparents or friends come to our house and watch the kids so we can have a date night. Other times, my husband provides the respite I need by watching the kids and allowing me to go hide in our bedroom for a couple hours. During this time I’ll watch TV, read a book, nap, or take a bath.

Of course, I offer to do the same for my husband if he needs it. However, he understands that he gets a break from our special needs reality by going to work every day. Yes he’s working, and he needs some down time too, but he is usually able to get what he needs after the kids are in bed.

If you don't make self care and respite a priority, eventually it will catch up to you #specialneedsmom Click To Tweet

What If I Don’t Have Family to Help

I’ll admit, we are very fortunate to have parents willing and able to give my husband and I the break we desperately need. I really wish this was the case for everyone, but unfortunately it’s not everyone’s reality. If that’s you and you feel alone in your special needs parenting journey, I feel for you. Hopefully a couple of the following tips will be beneficial to you.

  1. If you attend a local church, reach out to them with the need. Often times people may be willing to help, they simply don’t know what your needs are. The fact is, unless you are a special needs parent you really have no idea how difficult it can be and how important respite is. Perhaps your church could come alone side of you and find a way to make respite a reality through volunteers.
  2. Talk about options with your child’s case worker with the county. Does your child qualify for respite services? If so how does their respite program work? I know many are fearful of going this route due to instances of abuse happening to their children. If this is a concern of yours, ask a friend you trust if they are willing to become licensed for respite care. This friend could have the ability to say no when asked to care for other children and only provide respite to your family. (discuss this with your caseworker.  I know it can happen like this locally but can’t speak for other areas)
  3. Many high schools and even some colleges require community service as a graduation requirement. Perhaps you can find a student interested in therapy services, nursing, social services, or special education willing to volunteer for you and provide respite.

Take Care of Yourself

No matter how respite looks for you, make it a priority. Friends, I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself. If you don’t make self care and respite a priority, eventually it will catch up to you. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Make sure you are finding ways to replenish your own cup.

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