Malones Early Learning Center

Jun 30, 2022

Parental Fatigue: How to Identify the Signs and Prioritize Your Own Well-Being

No matter how rewarding parenthood is, fatigue is common among parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


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No matter how rewarding parenthood is, fatigue is common among parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Even as they grow older, children with special needs require additional support from their parents, educators, and care teams; and mothers and fathers alike may neglect their own physical, mental, and emotional needs through the years: Increasing their risk of parental fatigue.

As a parent to one or more children with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, or other special needs, this guide from Malones Early Learning Center will help you to identify the signs of parental fatigue and come up with a treatment plan to combat burnout.

What Are the Signs of Parental Fatigue?

Most parents experience some level of fatigue, especially during the first few years of a child’s life. Parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, however, tend to experience ongoing fatigue that affects them socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Some signs of parental fatigue include physical and mental exhaustion that isn’t reduced with sleep, impaired cognitive functioning, and poor sleep quality.

If left untreated, parental fatigue can worsen over time — bringing parents to a point of burnout. Memory issues, irritability, social avoidance, emotional detachment, and feelings of shame and resentment are just a few signs and symptoms of parental burnout.

 When determining the level of parental fatigue you’re experiencing, be sure to consider the following:

 ●      How well you’re sleeping at night

●      Your marital or relational satisfaction

●      How much time you spend caring for your special needs child each day

●      Whether you’re experiencing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety

Beat Fatigue Through Self-Care and Personal Development

Once you’ve assessed your fatigue levels, you can begin to treat your symptoms. Start by setting a few personal goals for yourself, such as losing weight, landing an exciting new job, or improving your sleep quality. Look for ways to get the help you need so you can achieve these goals, whether that means joining a support group, asking friends and family for assistance with childcare, or utilizing respite care services in your community.

When you’re able to focus on self-care, plan activities that relax and recharge you. Book a massage, watch a movie, go for a run, walk in nature, have lunch with a friend, or take a nap. You could also use this time to further your education, apply for jobs, or start a side hustle.

If your current job or place of employment could be contributing to your fatigue, there are lots of online resources to help you look for new opportunities. Use websites like FlexJobs, JustRemote, and We Work Remotely to find work-from-home jobs and use an online resume creator to design an eye-catching resume in minutes. And if you decide to go into business for yourself instead, the good news is that advertising is easier than ever. For instance, you can work from home, use a free custom logo maker to put a bold face on your company, and spread the word for free via social media!

Prioritizing Self-Care Has Its Pros and Cons

It’s important to practice self-care when you’re experiencing parental fatigue, but there are some negative outcomes you should be aware of. As a few examples, you could overburden your spouse or support network, undertreat symptoms of anxiety and depression, or spend too much time on self-care and neglect other areas of (or people in) your life.

To avoid these negative outcomes, it’s a good idea to create a self-care plan that works for you and your family. Build a support network you can rely on, but don’t be afraid to enlist the help of trained caregivers to avoid asking too much of your loved ones.

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to put your own needs on the backburner when your child has intellectual or developmental disabilities, but parental fatigue isn’t just bad for you: It could also harm your child, spouse, and other loved ones. By taking steps to combat parental fatigue, you’ll reduce stress, improve your sleep quality and energy levels, and be an even better parent to your child.

Malones Early Learning Center provides high quality, accessible, affordable, and educational child care services to families. Call 618-985-5911.