Compassion Fatigue and the Need to Breathe

September 4, 2013
Parents' self-care is crucial to a family's health

Parents' self-care is crucial to a family's health

Whether you come to parenthood through birth, step-parenting, adoption or fostering, the rewards are tremendous. Parenting is the toughest job you will ever love. Adoptive parenting includes a few extra twists and potholes to navigate, especially at this time of year. The start of school marks a return to homework, early risings, and busy schedules. Stress skyrockets for children and parents. For kids who struggle academically or socially, have difficulty with transitions and self-management, the school bell rings in turbulent times.

Parenting kids with tough starts places extra demands on folks. Raising kids who are self-regulated and self-reliant may be marked by two steps forward and one step back. The time line for independence into successful adulthood may be markedly extended compared to that of kids without a history of trauma.

In earlier blogs, we’ve explored ways to support our kids. But, parents, it’s equally important to take care of yourselves. How do you remain connected and responsive without experiencing compassion fatigue? As you watch families whose kids achieve academically, cooperate willingly, and excel athletically, how do you resist pangs of envy? How do you power through the challenges, stay optimistic, and love the kids you have? In what ways do you replenish your own spirit, maintain strength? How do you help yourself notice and celebrate each tiny step that marks the path to your child’s life journey?

When most of your friends’ kids have fledged the nest but you’re still actively parenting a late-bloomer, it is easy to feel exhausted, discouraged, and defeated. How do you reset yourself to tackle what life has dished up?

  • Some techniques that are useful:
  • Attitude of gratitude: notice and treasure what is versus what isn’t.
  • Become a community with other adoptive parents.
  • Spend time with your parenting partner. Keep this relationship vigorous.
  • Carve out time for yourself—body, mind, and spirit.
  • Connect with friends and eliminate negative people from your life.
  • Set realistic expectations and definitions of success for your kids and yourself.
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