Don't Forget You: A Self-Care Assessment for Parents & Caregivers

Parents and caregivers of a child with chronic illness or disability may experience a number of emotions throughout the child’s life: fear, guilt, grief, anger, resentment, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or a loss of control.

Each parent may react differently to the situation. Be patient, and try to understand each other. Intense emotions such as shock, disbelief and denial can hit you when your child is first diagnosed, and they can return if your child’s condition worsens or changes. Remember to take care of yourself! When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take this self-assessment and find the support you need.

What do you do routinely to take care of yourself? Don’t forget the little things: Talk to your friends, buy your favorite tea or coffee, take your vitamins, indulge yourself with a scented lotion, take a brisk walk. If you’re not feeling like yourself, it will be harder to take care of your child.

Whom do you speak to when you need support or need to vent? You’ll drive yourself crazy if you keep everything bottled up. Whether it’s a relative, a spouse, a friend, a counselor or the family dog, you need an outlet to speak freely and air your feelings without judgment.

Do you have pressing fears? It’s perfectly normal to find yourself worrying about seemingly everything. Pinpoint the areas most troubling to you, and seek assurances where you can — from medical staff, technicians or equipment providers, perhaps — and consider talking to a counselor, minister or other trusted professional to address your thoughts.

How often do you get a full night’s sleep? One national study calls the eight hour sleep requirement a folktale, having found that anywhere from 6.5 to 7.5 hours is healthy. The bottom line is you know what amount makes you feel rested and you’ll be a better parent if you can face a majority of your days feeling that way.


Are you getting exercise, even a light walk around the neighborhood? Scientists have found that regular aerobic exercise decreases tension, stabilizes your mood and improves sleep. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety.

Besides your child’s illness, have you experienced any major changes in your life that you have not been able to address, such as a loss, a separation from a partner, a move or a new birth? These major stressors can impact every facet of your life and even increase your susceptibility to illness. Please consider seeking counseling to help you manage the stress and perhaps grief you’re experiencing.

Do you have any favorite hobbies? Find even a few minutes every few days to enjoy them. It will benefit your mental and physical well-being. Don’t have any? Consider some portable pursuits: crossword puzzles, online jigsaw puzzles, reading, fantasy sports leagues, or listening to music.

Is your religion a source of support for you? If you’re active, your religious community likely offers counseling, support groups, visitors and other assistance if you ask. If you’ve wanted to get back to church, this is a perfect time to open yourself to a caring community.

When was the last time you experienced silly, mindless fun like watching a funny movie or playing a game outdoors? While your current situation can be stressful and demanding, it doesn’t require every waking moment to be filled with tension. If you open yourself to opportunities to experience fun, relaxation or humor, you’ll feel better and your child will be able to enjoy your elevated mood as well. Talk to your home health agency about supports that might be available to you as a parent of a child with special needs, including special respite services that open time for you to spend with other family members or take a personal day just for you!