Time Out for Parent/s of an Aspergers Child?

It’s selfish to spend time away from your child, isn’t it?  I mean, after all, your child has special challenges, so it’s all the more important that you are there for her/him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, right?

Wrong!

All parents, married or single, need time to get away from their children and ‘sharpen the saw.’  Sharpening the saw is a concept discussed by author Steven Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  You see, we all need time to get refreshed: mentally, socially, spiritually, emotionally, physically.

I came across an article recently at How Stuff Works, “How Parents Can Make More Time For Themselves.” I am writing this article for both single and married parents.

parenting children with aspergers

photo credit: vivianejl on Flickr Creative Commons

First, what are some of the  benefits of taking time for yourself?

First, it sends the message to yourself, as a single parent, that you are respecting your own needs for time and for building up your reserves.  You are the goose who lays the golden eggs!  In other words, the golden eggs stand for the precious time that you give to your child.  But if you kill the goose (yourself) by demanding that more and more eggs be produced, you’ll end up with a dead goose and no eggs!  So take time for yourself!

As married parents, it sends the message to both of you that your relationship is a priority.  It’ s an important message to send!  Having children, work, and all the other stresses of life is challenging enough to a marriage with ‘neurotypical’ kids.  But throw a gifted child or children with Aspergers  into the mix, and it’s easy for that to become a stressor in and of itself.  It takes two parents being emotionally connected and unified to raise a child most effectively.

By getting away from your kids from time to time, you will be making yourselves better parents of a child or children with Aspergers! If you are married, it will build emotional reserves to be able to handle whatever stressful events come at you in the course of your parenting week/s.  If you are single, it will do the same thing!

Leaving your kids with someone else also sends them the message that it’s ok for them to spend time in the company of others.  Also, for your child or children with Aspergers, it will send them the message that they are capable of handling new and different situations.

A longer term benefit that you will be giving to your children is that of role modeling for them how you acted as an effective parent.  In other words, they will see that you were able to ‘have a life’ outside of the house and as a parent.  They will see that you had hobbies and interests that you balanced with parenting, so that you were more relaxed and calm while at home.  And they will be able to give that legacy to their children.

How to Get That Time Away

If you are a married couple, date nights are ideal but not always realistic.  If you can get in a date night or two per month, you are doing very well.  That’s a great practice to continue!   But, if you are having a hard time getting these date nights in, here are some other suggestions:

Schedule an appointment with yourself, with friends, or with just you and your spouse.

Sure, you may not think this is very romantic, if you are married, but let’s face it: Things change once you have kids.  It’s ok to use the calendar.  Schedule your time with each other (or by yourself) as if it were a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment.  You are worth it!  Even better, if you have a Google calendar or electronic organizer, set the appointment as one that repeats weekly, every two weeks, every three weeks, or every month.  This way, you won’t have to be wondering when that next ‘self’ time will be coming up.

Here are some more creative ideas:

  • Do chores together, and have the kids go far away from you in the house.  This way, you will at least get some chat time in together.
  • Schedule a play date for both kids at a friend’s house, and you can then take a couple of hours to grab a cup of coffee, or just to shop together for groceries.
  • Coordinate your schedules so that you can meet for lunch once a week, if you work relatively near each other.
  • Look into taking a fitness class, ballroom dancing class, or some other activity together.  That will help you broaden your horizons, develop common interests, and spend time together as well.

Schedule time just for you (if you are a single parent this goes unsaid, and if you are married, you even need time away from each other)

  • Take advantage of small breaks throughout the day or night.  Enjoy your kid’s bath time by bringing a book to the bathroom, so that you can grab a few minutes for yourself.
  • Take advantage of getting up early or staying up a little later.  You’ll have some peace and quiet, and some time to yourself.
  • If you are married, talk to each other about giving each other at least one night a week to spend out with friends, or on your own.  For example, one of you might want to go to the gym to work out.  The other might want to take a class or a hobby another night of the week.  By giving each other time to unwind and connect with your hobbies and with fun, you will  both be more relaxed and flexible with each other and with your children.

If you would like to read more about the topic of balancing parenting and time alone while raising kids, here are some of the articles this information comes from:

Sources

  • Cohen, Marisa. “Keeping Romance Alive Once Baby’s Arrived.” Parents. (March 10, 2010)

    http://www.parents.com/parenting/relationships/staying-close/keeping-romance-alive-once-baby-arrives/

  • Discovery Health. “Happy Parents Make Happy Kids.” Discovery Health. (March 10, 2010)

    http://health.discovery.com/centers/stress/balancing/couples.html

  • Relevant, Julie. “Make Time for Date Night.” NY Metro Parents Magazine. (March 10, 2010)

    http://nymetroparents.com/newarticle.cfm?colid=22183

  • Stechyson, Natalie. “Parents Should Spend Time Alone.” Saskatoon StarPhoenix. (March 10, 2010)

    http://www.thestarphoenix.com/life/Parents+should+spend+time+alone/2511871/story.html

  • Taylor, Julie. “8 Great Ways to Pump Up the Passion.” Parents. (March 10, 2010)

    http://www.parents.com/parenting/relationships/sex-and-marriage-after-baby/8-great-ways-to-pump-up-the-passion/

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.
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  • Connie

    Very sage advice indeed! Parents need to take time to refuel themselves – they do their children no justice if they are running on empty. Sometimes this means a nice get away but when you can't, these are simple, yet great ideas to keep in mind. Thanks for the reminder Steve.

  • http://www.personal-success-factors.com steveborgman

    Connie, thank you very much for stopping by. It's great to get some affirmation from yourself, an expert parent coach! I write this for myself as well as my readers, so I'll take that advice to heart as soon as possible :)

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  • http://www.aspergersparenting.com Craig_public

    Don’t forget to leverage grandparents or any close relative that your aspie feels comfortable around. Asking these people to watch your kids once and a while definitely helps. If the kids are having a bit of trouble mustering the willpower to visit someone else, just wait until they are bored and suggest the idea. Even aspies get bored every now and then and will be in a better mood that way. Trying to get them to go when they don’t want to is a sure way to cause aspergers tantrums, and you don’t want to ruin your date before it even begins.

    Great point about scheduling dates. If you let the aspie know about these dates ahead of time, they will be less likely to argue, because they are part of “the plan”, instead of a last minute change to their normal routine.

    Great article, thanks for the tips!

  • http://www.personal-success-factors.com steveborgman

    Craig, thanks for the tips about leveraging other relatives and friends who your child and you trust. It’s also very true that you have to be concrete about what’s going to be happening, due to the need for many children with Asperger’s to have clear ideas of what is going to happen that may be different from their regular routine.

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  • http://www.therapick.com/ Jen@ Therapists Los Angeles

    I’m still learning about Asperger’s as my mother’s best friend’s son (sister’s cousin’s boyfriend’s dad..just kidding) has Asperger’s. I love hanging with him and seeing how he interacts, but this is a great article for his mom. I’ll pass this to my mother and hopefully it won’t be an insult if she passes this onto her. Thanks!

  • http://www.stephenborgman.com Stephen Borgman

    Jen, I’m glad you found the article helpful :)

  • tyrayd

    I totally agree that parents need a break, especially when like me, we are going it alone. Friends have dried up and disappeared because you haven’t been able to give them any attention in ages. Family doesn’t understand no matter how many articles, reports, conversations are passed between you. I’m up so late waiting for him to ‘really’ be asleep and then at the slightest noise I jump. Safe to say 4 hours of sleep is a good night.

    There are no play dates or neighborhood kids. The last time I let him out he was bullied, kicked, and things just got worse. As a teenager, he doesn’t want mom around but can’t be out without me. Camp in the summer is $200 a day. School is about 11 days a month so where does one work? The meetings and the mounds of paperwork.

    I would LOVE TO refuel. Who really does? How are you making it happen.

  • http://www.stephenborgman.com Stephen Borgman

    Tyrayd, I wonder if you have had an opportunity to connect with Asperger’s/families with Asperger’s support groups either in your community or online?