Stress is not unfamiliar when it comes to parenting, as all parents understand upon waking up to the cries of the baby in the middle of the night for the first time. As per the assumptions, this even becomes a capital “STRESS” when it comes to taking care of the needs of children with autism. Assumption or not, one simple truth persists.
Some Parents Experience More Stress Than Others
“There are so many ways stress creeps into our lives, yet if we take control of our time and make proactive and healthy decisions, we can stop these negative cycles and truly take care of our mental health.” –Sonja Seglin, LCPC
What factors contribute to the stress a parent encounters? Does parenting children with autism affect the degree of stress? If not, then are some parents of children with autism able to experience less stress than other parents?
However, before answering these questions, the first question that parents should ask is: does it matter? And the answer is yes.
Truth be told, some parents do not care about the stress. Why? Because being a parent means being accustomed to the pressures of parenthood. Often times, stress is just shrugged off or shouldered while saying it’s for their children – probably even more so for parents of children with autism.
No matter how stressful it is, if it’s for the kids, then it’s nothing.
But while it is a testament to the amazing love for the children and the family, it also shows the equal lack of appreciation for themselves, and this is important to realize because no parent can just shoulder the stress and do nothing about it forever.
Stress, too much of it, is terrible for the health and various researchers have summed it up for concerned parents. “Chronic stressors can wear down the body, particularly the cardiovascular, immune, and gastrointestinal systems.” Not only limited to the physiological, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety also appear in the equation. “Chronic work stress, insufficient mental health resources, feeling overworked and under supported — these are issues facing too many workers, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA also stated.
So while parents teach their children how to take care of themselves, they should also be aware and with conscious effort take care of themselves. After all, it’s also for the kids.
How Do Parents Experience More Stress?
To better alleviate and understand it, one group of researchers wanted to see where the stress comes from – especially and comparably for parents with autism. The factors considered include:
- The family’s circumstances
- The parents’ traits
- The children’s type of autism
According to them, it’s all of the above. Parents whose children exhibit the most difficult behavior also experienced the most stress. It is an undeniable fact and possibly a strong correlation, but likewise, these are instances that trigger parents to do something about it – to cope up with it.
Parents may seek to get help and solve the factors/problems, or even try to find a deeper meaning in their experiences to cope up with them. However, if they don’t, the factors listed above do create nightmares even parents are afraid of. Avoiding these problems, such as through disengaged coping, may instead cause parents to suffer more from stress.
Ultimately, aside from the factors listed, what causes the most stress is isolation. Given the stigma that comes with autism, the additional conflict from a family’s situation or a hereditary trait, it is incredibly easy to ease out of social connections. And that’s the mistake.
After all, as the proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a kid.
How Do Parents Experience Less Stress?
Parents who experience less stress avoid not stress, but isolation. As Gretchen Flores, MA LPC LCPC explains, “Some stress is unavoidable but if you can keep perspective then it can be a whole lot easier.” The way they do it is they create their villages and surround their families with support from other people.
Regardless of the source of stress, regardless of autism, parenthood is riddled with a lot of problems, but whatever problems they encounter, parents who succeed in experiencing less stress are those who don’t go through it alone. More so, together, they welcome and accept these problems.