Today, about 1 in 45 children experiences autism in the United States. This means when I talk to people now, they are usually not only aware of what autism is, they know someone who has it or is directly affected by it. — Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC
There is a tendency for families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to experience big-time stress. However, don’t worry – they can be managed.
How Stress Impacts Families
People cope with stress differently, so there’s no proper way to react to a child with ASD. But what is appropriate is to understand the feelings of each other.
Feelings Of Stress
People typically feel different emotions, which may cause stress. Feelings like these are normal and part of the process.
Various Family Members And Different Feelings
Having different feelings in reference to the members of the family can also be a source of stress and affect relationships within the group. Mothers may be more stressed because they are the ones who care for the child whereas fathers feel stressed because of the child’s behavior. The siblings of ASD children can also feel stress, and often it’s because they’re embarrassed by the fact that their sibling is “autistic.” Extended family members can become stressed too just by watching.
Common Causes Of Family Stress
The families of children with ASD are more likely to experience stress because of the following:
- Having to accept the diagnosis
- Being overwhelmed
- Losing control over their child’s future
- Having to deal with challenging behavior
- Complex ASD service systems
- Difficulty in managing life with ASD children
- Who will care for the child when a parent wants to rest?
When parenting during times of high stress, keep in mind that stress may affect your child very differently from how it affects you as a parent. Just as parenting coping resources may be diminished under times of great stress, children may behave very differently from their norm when under great stress. — Peter Stavinoha, PhD
How to Avoid Stress If You Have A Child With ASD
Stress is normal, but you should know how to manage it. Here are tips on how to handle your stress while dealing with a child with autism spectrum disorder:
- Getting Organized
People tend to feel stressed if they feel like they don’t have control. Find control by putting routines into your family or adjusting your previous habits.
- Look After Yourself
Make sure to give yourself some time off from taking care of the child.
- Keep Family Traditions Going
Continuing traditions can provide your family with stability and lessen your stress. However, you might need to modify according to your child’s behavior or liking.
When dads step up their involvement, mothers of children with autism reported fewer depressive symptoms when their children were four years old. Taking an active role includes helping a child improve their literacy and performing responsive caregiving activities, such as soothing children when they were upset or taking the child to the doctor. — Rick Nauert PhD
Positive Ways To Cope With Stress
Learn how to cope with stress positively and healthily. Always have a positive perspective and keep calm when facing difficulty.
- Healthy Support System
Ask for information and help from family and friends, especially if your child is diagnosed with ASD.
- Talking To Yourself And Having a Positive Mind
Thinking and talking to yourself positively will always be an excellent way to cope with stress. Instead of having negative thoughts about your parenting, think of words like, “I can do this.” Give yourself daily pep talks and positivity will become a part of your life.
- Breathing Strategies for Relaxation
Doing breathing and muscle relaxation techniques can be a great way to keep your stress at bay. Do them immediately once you notice the signs. Take some time, maybe about 10 minutes, in your day to meditate.
Strategies For Challenging Behaviour
Know what triggers your child’s challenging behavior to avoid it. Stick to the methods that work on your child already. If they’re not responding, find out why. You can always ask your early intervention provider for help.
Other Stress Management Tips From Parents Of Children With ASD
Here are some successful stress management tips that parents have tried:
- Prepare for stressful situations
- Learn more about what affects your child’s development
- Not all parents have the same experiences
- Stay connected with similar families
- There will be times of stress, and you have to accept it