A = AWARENESS Self Care – Part 1

Special Needs Parenting: Managing
Fatigue Through Self-Assessment and
Self Care

Written by Tilda Moore

Parents of children with special needs know a level of fatigue beyond tiredness.

Unlike tiredness, fatigue is a sense of exhaustion that can’t be easily relieved through rest. At Red Shoes Rock, we know that parents of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) often deal with a number of parenting challenges arising from the physical, behavioral, and neurological symptoms of FASD, especially with the presence of co-occurring disorders such as ADHD and sensory processing disorder

One of the most significant challenges facing these parents is managing their own physical and emotional well-being. By assessing your level of parental fatigue and creating a self-care treatment plan, you can boost your energy and become the best possible parent you can be!

Special needs caregiving fatigue, also known as caregiver burnout, is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can occur when someone provides ongoing care and support to a person with special needs. This type of caregiving can be demanding and stressful, as it often involves managing complex medical needs, navigating bureaucracies, and systems, and dealing with behavioral and communication challenges. As a most-often hidden disability it also becomes a point of contention between caregivers and professionals in advocating for the individual with FASD.

Assessing and Diagnosing Parental Fatigue

It’s important to recognize the signs of parental fatigue so you can take steps to combat fatigue before it leads to complete burnout. Beyond feeling exhausted, irritable, and unable to concentrate, fatigue can create physical symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension. Fatigue also tends to trigger symptoms of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. It can also trigger underlying health issues as your quality of health and stamina decreases.

Self-assessment can be a useful tool for identifying and managing fatigue, but it’s important to seek professional help if you’re experiencing persistent or severe symptoms. A professional might evaluate your fatigue by asking about your sleep quality, associated mental health symptoms, marital satisfaction, and your caregiving burden.

Refocusing on Personal Goals
Being a parent to a child with special needs can become your entire identity. While many parents are happy with this, others crave a sense of individuality and personal fulfillment.

Pursuing your personal passions can help you find a greater purpose.

And this is not selfish!

We Are Brave Together
suggests taking time to reflect on your goals and creating a vision board for your life. To carve out space for these personal goals, think carefully about the tasks and relationships that are taking up your time and mental energy. If certain tasks are not vital to your family’s health and well-being, see if you can drop or outsource them. If certain friends or extended family members are dragging you down, consider spending less time on these relationships.

Making a Career Change
If your job is taking a lot of your time and energy or creating excess stress in your life, consider a career change. Spend some time refreshing your resume so you can catch the attention of hiring managers. You can use a free resume builder to design an eye-catching resume featuring a modern design and sections that perfectly highlight the skills and experience you’ll bring to the job. Just pick your favorite template and add your own text!

If you need to be home to care for your child, running a home-based business might be preferable to employment. Set up a comfortable home office and find a work-from-home routine that works for your family. You’ll also need to register your business and choose a business structure. Consider structuring your business as an LLC for ease and flexibility. Plus, you’ll enjoy liability protection and tax advantages! Just be sure to read up on your state LLC rules first.

Avoiding Unwanted Outcomes
As you work to create room for self-care in your life, be prepared to face potential unwanted outcomes. For example, spending time on personal pursuits may mean your partner has to take on more household responsibilities and parenting tasks. This can create conflict in your relationship, so be sure to sit down with your partner and discuss your needs beforehand. Self-care can also create feelings of guilt toward oneself.

To overcome guilt, PsychCentral suggests reframing how you perceive self-care.


When you take care of yourself and honor your needs,
you’ll create a strong foundation on which your children can grow.

Special needs parenting is a challenging role that requires a significant investment of your time, energy, and resources. It’s important to remember that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. By assessing and diagnosing your level of parental fatigue, pursuing your professional goals, and understanding negative outcomes, you can take steps to relieve stress and maintain your energy.

Looking for more ways to support children with special needs? Join Red Shoes Rock to help support those affected by prenatal alcohol exposure.

Check out all out BLOG articles – we will begin posting more i C.A.R.E. ideas to help you and your family.

Published by jodeekulp

Jodee Kulp, is an award-winning author, producer and advocate who works tirelessly to serve children and families of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Her behavioral work in understanding canine fear and applying it to helping adults gain life skills is momumental and parallels our work with EAGALA Equine Therapy. It will be exciting to watch this progress. - Chris Troutt, Papillion Center Current Projects include: Pearlz Work Embraced Movement PraiseMoves LIFT (Laughter in Fitness Training) LiveAbilities Red Shoes Rock. Stop FASD PawZup Life Stories

One thought on “A = AWARENESS Self Care – Part 1

  1. This is a wonderful and gentle summary of the reality of parenting a child with special needs – in this case, FASD. Understanding one’s level of fatigue and recognizing the need for self care is so so important. It’s a lifelong marathon and not a sprint. Thanks for the post!


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