5 Things Every Parent of a Child with Special Needs Should Hear

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 21, 2021

You are not alone. There may not be someone else dealing with the exact same constellation of symptoms as your child, but there are people with similar challenges. Find those people and join a circle of support. Surrounding yourself with support can help you get through the challenges - big and small, and just knowing that someone is always there to hear you out can make you feel like you’re never alone.

Self-care isn’t a privilege. It’s a must. It’s easy to put yourself in last place while taking care of others 24/7. However, taking care of yourself isn’t a privilege, and it does not have to come at the expense of taking care of your family. Taking care of yourself is a must for you to feel recharged and ready to go on with your busy days. Ask friends or family to bring a meal by now and then, schedule a pedicure for yourself or a date night, or whatever you enjoy doing. Whatever makes you feel special and taken care of - take the time to enjoy it. You are worth it.

**Make time to enjoy your kids. ** The life of a parent of a special needs kid can be hectic and often overscheduled. It’s essential to take some time just to enjoy your family and your children. Read to them, snuggle with them, engage with them about what’s important in their world. It’s ok to take some time off from appointments and just be a family.

Make time for your relationships. A relationship is hard work, period. Parenting is hard work, period. Parenting a child with special needs is challenging work, period! For those of you who are married or in a relationship, make time for your relationship away from your children. Schedule a date night, spend an hour with your significant other in the middle of the day, choose an activity that’s only for the two of you. Taking the time to be a couple is essential and can bring you back some lost energy.

Remember - you’re doing your best, and you are the best parent your child could have wished for. Our Circles of Support are always here for you.

At Circles, we offer Circles of Support programs for mothers. Join our Circles and be surrounded by support, starting now.

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5 Ways To Strengthen Your Family’s Mental Health During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Written by: The Circles Team

May 01, 2020

The last few months have no doubt been a struggle for so many families. Stress from Covid-19, nationwide protests, statewide lockdowns, and the completion of academic terms from home have left many families feeling like they are swimming in an ocean with no land in sight.

Recent research found that as many as seven in ten Americans (72%) find that their lives have been disrupted significantly by the coronavirus outbreak. More so now than ever, it is essential to keep family stress levels in check, as stress can take a heavy toll on individual emotional, mental, and physical health. Left unchecked can cause a variety of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Chronic stress can also contribute to several physical issues, including cardiovascular disease, weakened immunity, obesity, gastrointestinal issues, and skin diseases.

As families dive into a new normal of summer, there is no better time to reflect on how things have been going for you and to take the opportunity to reflect on where you would like something to go over the next few months. Remember that much learning comes from doing and thinking about, and reflecting on what you want to do.

As a family, you will always remember your time together during the coronavirus pandemic and how it was defined. Children can take this opportunity to learn to be adaptable, flexible, and resilient. Define the memories that you will create together. Will this summer be marked by stress and uncertainty or joy and opportunities? When you participate in new activities outside of your everyday routine and comfort zone, there is so much room for learning to take place. So, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself this summer, will you sink or swim; Will you face the challenges of still so much uncertainty head-on? At Circles, we have put together some tips to help ride the wave of stress and uncertainty.

Break up the Monotony: Day in and day out can look the same if you let it. Change, excitement; it is up to you! Although camps and summer travel vacations may no longer be in session – make up a new calendar together as a family. When you open up your mind, you will discover that there is so much to do right in your backyard. Enjoy a fancy picnic, play tourist at open venues in your town, create a family book club, or enjoy a night of painting or board games together as a family. Whatever you choose, make sure it is new, different, playful, or even silly!

Declare Time and Space as Screen-Free Zones: The body and mind need to take time and unplug from those electronics! Taking time away from your phone or computer allows you to be more present when engaging in other activities. Children will follow your lead, so establish a sound, consistent screen rules in your own house. Remember, screen time is a choice, and establishing zones and times in your home, which are screen free will open up other pathways to communication and discovery.

Regularly Check in With Family Members: Family meals are a great time to check-in and see how everyone is doing. Perhaps you have a “chatty” child always looking to engage in conversation, or you may have one that gives you quick, simple one-word answers. To encourage discussion, try asking open ended questions. In my house, we use a little strategy I call the “peach and the pit.” Ever since my kids were small at dinner time, we take turns going around the table pondering and describing the best and worst part of their day; the sweetest, juiciest moment (peach) and the tougher, harder one (pit).”

Be a Positive Role Model: It might seem as if your children aren’t listening and watching what you say and do, but the good news is that they are. Remember, you serve as their role model, so take this opportunity to show them how to handle stress, adversity, and uncertainty with strength and confidence. Show your children how to care for themselves and care for other members of your family. While you are at it, why not try some new forms of self-care during this time? There are so many free apps out there to explore or try something you might not be familiar with.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Lastly, remember the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially during these stressful times. Eating well, sleeping well, getting exercise every day, and spending times outdoors are all great stress busters.

Back to School Anxiety? 3 Tips Parents Need to Know for Managing Their Family’s Mental Health During the Pandemic

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 30, 2020

Stay healthy. Stay calm. This is a little mantra to keep in clear view for this year’s back to the school calendar. With so much going on, it is normal to feel stressed. With a situation filled with so much uncertainty, it is normal to feel anxiety. As we begin the back to school season, it is clear that this is a year like no other. So, whether your child is going back to kindergarten or college or whether your school is going hybrid, remote, or fully in person, you’d better buckle up your seatbelts and get ready for a wild rollercoaster ride.

To begin, remember that you are doing you and you are making decisions based on what is right for your family. Try not to spend time comparing your decisions to those of others. Refrain from making judgments. Everyone is trying to navigate during this crazy time the best that they can. Have empathy for those who seem to be struggling a bit more. Regardless of what your family’s individual situation may be, here are three creative strategies for managing the symptoms of stress and anxiety as you face the new school year ahead.

Focus on the areas that you can control: There are so many things out of your control right now. Think about it. We are unable to control whether the school will open or close. We are unable to control the global rate of disease spread. We cannot control if the supermarket will have the groceries that we need. And we cannot control when businesses open or close. And perhaps the most frustrating part? We have no idea how much longer this pandemic will last? Weeks? Months? Half a year? Your guess is as good as mine. But until the said time, let go of the things that you cannot control. Spend your time and energy, focusing on the things that you can control. You can control your thoughts and attitudes. You can control how you spend your time. Try turning off the news and watching a program for enjoyment. Pick up a book or go outside and celebrate the beauty of nature. Help others and spread kindness. There are many amazing ways to find enjoyment during this unprecedented time. Establish Routines: Covid-19, working from home, and homeschooling children have created a lack of structure for many. Routines are an excellent tool to help us cope with change and uncertainty. When you set up a routine, you know exactly what to expect. With so much on your plate to manage, setting up a routine can ensure that you are not leaving out important components of self-care from your day today. For kids, a chalkboard or whiteboard is an excellent place to help them visualize routine. Give the kids some control by adding fun items to the calendar. For everyone’s health and sanity, keep mealtimes and bedtimes on schedule. Make your routine fun! And remember not to over-schedule. It’s important to leave some room for spontaneity and silliness in there. Have Regular Mental Health Check-ins and Reinforce Ways to Cope: Check-in regularly with your loved ones to make sure they are managing their stresses okay. Remember, children often show stress differently than adults. Changes to eating, sleeping, and loss of interest in things they once enjoyed are common ways for kids to show stress. Normalize the routine of talking about feelings. As parents, our natural ability is to solve problems and lessen our kids’ pain and discomfort. However, our kids need to develop their own solutions on ways to cope with their stress. Try listening to your kids’ frustrations without giving advice. Ask them to find their own coping mechanisms, which are self-soothing. Put the power in their hands to find ways to cope with a challenging and frustrating time. Remember, you are your children’s greatest teachers and their most adored role models. The better plan you have to manage your own Covid related stress and anxiety, the better your children will do. For additional information, the CDC has excellent resources for families on managing COVID-19 related stress.

Five Tips To Mindfully Calm Your Anxiety

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 23, 2020

Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn said that we should “Smile, breathe, and walk slow when feeling anxious.” Much truth is held in these simple actions. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, controlling anxiety is more manageable said than done. If getting rid of stress appears so easy on the surface, why is it that 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year?

What is Anxiety? Anxiety is feelings of worry and stress that won’t go away. It can show up as intense nervousness and fear. Anxiety is sneaky and can manifest itself physically, causing increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, or nausea. It manipulates and lies to us. It causes self-doubt, worries, what-ifs, and worse case scenarios.

If we aren’t careful, anxiety can make our thoughts spin out of control. The good news is that by adding little bursts of mindfulness throughout our day, we can gain the power we need to reduce feelings of anxiety and calm our worries.

How to Be Mindful When Anxious:

Whether your anxiety is mild or intense, felt occasionally, or felt every day – these five proven tips can calm your anxiety in no time. The good news is that you will have the ability to outsmart your anxiety and worries everything single time with a little practice.

Let it Go: There is so much in life that we can’t control. We can’t control these things to disrupt our calm and peace of mind if we let them. The only thing that we really can control is how we react to uncertainty and life’s challenges. One of life’s best lessons is letting go of the need to control the things we have no control over.

**Breathe in and Out: ** Breathing, it’s the simplest thing we can do, and it works almost instantly in calming our nerves and anxiety. No special skills are required. We can do it anywhere, at any time. It is that simple. Take a deep breath. And repeat. Again, and again and again.

Interrupt Your Anxiety: Anxiety moves out of my way. There is no place for you here. Interrupting your anxiety with an activity you enjoy is a sure way to calm your worries. Find what works for you and change it up. Reading a good book or going for a walk are excellent ways to find a distraction. Connecting with a friend and sharing in positive conversation can take your mind off your troubles in no time.

Soothe Your Soul With Sound: Take the time to make a playlist of the sounds most peaceful to you. Is it a specific song or artist? The sound of water flowing or birds chirping? Music or sound has the power to lift our moods almost immediately. Anxiety and negative emotions can be difficult to sustain when surrounded by the soothing sounds we love.

At Circles, our Circles of Support will help you find balance in your life challenges by surrounding you with like-minded people and professional therapist in small, virtual groups. Join our Circles to be surrounded by support.