Some children are just harder to parent than others. High-need children come with a more intense set of needs than children who are not high-need.
Whether your child has medical needs, emotional or behavioral challenges, learning or developmental issues, or a difficult temperament, raising a high-need child with ongoing demands and challenges can be exhausting.
Survival guide for parenting high-need kids
This article explores seven things you can do to make parenting your high-need child a little easier.
1. Practice good self-care
Good self-care includes anything you need in order to be as healthy as possible.
Eat nutritionally-balanced meals, get regular exercise, get as close to a good night’s sleep as you can, spend time in nature, and keep up with important relationships.
Making these things part of your life can make a big difference in your health, your outlook, your relationship with your spouse, and your ability to meet your child’s needs and be fully present.
2. Recognize your feelings as normal and get the support you need
Whatever emotions you are experiencing are normal and acceptable. It is common for parents who are stretched thin to feel exhaustion, anger, disappointment, regret, sadness, and other emotions.
Seek whatever support you need.
Counseling can provide a safe space to express your emotions and receive support. Support groups for parents who are parenting the same kind of high-need child as you are can also be beneficial.
Other parents have walked in your shoes and can give the kind of validation and advice that no one else can.
3. Make time for honest communication with your spouse
Set aside some regular times when you and your spouse can spend time together. You need two types of regular time together –
- The opportunity to discuss matters related to parenting and the running of your life, and
- Enjoyable time connecting with each other without discussing those things.
It is usually easier to incorporate these times into your life when you make them part of your regular routine.
Even ten minutes each day can make a positive difference.
4. Trade childcare with other parents you trust
Having one or two trusted families with whom your child is comfortable, and who can provide respite when needed, can work wonders for your well-being.
Try to schedule regular times when your child can spend a short time away with these families, giving you and your spouse a chance to recharge, reconnect, and do things that are difficult to do when your child is home.
5. Structure your home environment for success
As much as possible, structure your home environment for success.
Arrange your home in a way that makes it easier to complete daily tasks, and more likely that your child will comply with your instructions. Store items where you need them, keep prohibited items out of easy reach, put slipcovers on the furniture, etc.
Customize the environment to meet your child’s and your family’s needs. Also, try to arrange your family schedule so that tasks are as smooth as possible.
For example –
Try to make sure that your child is well-rested and fed before shopping. Dim the lights to signal winding down for bedtime and do not allow rambunctious activities right before bed.
The more you can keep a structure that is conducive to things happening the way you need them to, the easier it is for everyone and the less energy you have to expend keeping everything on track.
6. Create fun and meaningful family rituals
Create some family rituals that are fun and have meaning for your family.
Rituals give importance to life.
It can be fun to celebrate ordinary things with a special family ritual. These rituals can be as simple or complex as your family decides to make them. Recognize family members for kind, helpful deeds or school accomplishments.
Create a special family hug when a family member will be leaving for a short trip away. Designate a special place on the wall for friendly messages. Make up a “holiday” for just your family.
There is no limit to the fun and deep family bonds that special family rituals can create.
7. Celebrate milestones
Did your child master a skill he has been practicing? Did she finally have the courage to adhere to her daily medical regimen without tears or procrastination? Did he get through the week with no negative notes home from school?
Celebrate it! Celebrate everything you can, and delight in your child’s achievements, no matter how small.
With a few changes to your home and family routines, parenting your high-need child can become easier. Try choosing one or two things to get started.
Once those things have been incorporated into your life, you can add more. Then congratulate yourself for your accomplishments and enjoy the benefits these changes are bringing to you and your family.