It was the best of the times. It was the most challenging of times. It was the age of togetherness. It was the age when we wanted to escape alone to an experimental colony on Mars with a bad book and a good bottle of wine. Yes, it was summer. Actually, it IS summer. And for many families with children who struggle with medical concerns, summer is a time of togetherness and memory-making…and of being completely overwhelmed. This season, in addition to doing your best for your family, don’t forget to take time to do what’s best for YOU. Conscious self-care can make the difference between thriving and barely surviving during the summer months. And here’s the thing: studies have shown that taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to take care of your medically-challenged child. By making yourself functional and happy, you can offer more compassionate, more energetic care to your child who needs you.

Here are some ideas to help you take care of YOU, even in the midst of managing summer activity and care schedules.

1. Share Care With Other Families

You are not alone. It can be challenging to share childcare with families whose children don’t have the same needs and restrictions as your kids. But there are undoubtedly other families who understand the need for carefully shaped experiences. It may seem like a lot to manage another child along with your own. But by doing so, you may also earn some much-needed time absolutely by yourself. Look online for parent support communities in your area, or comment on this post to find parents in your area that may be willing to share care.

2. Define Your Time Off

I used to do a lot of backpacking and one of the tricks was never to carry a gigantic pack — if you HAVE a big pack, you will FILL it. In the case of your time during summer, if you HAVE time, you know that your will end up spending it managing your family’s needs. Of course, it very well may be necessary for you to be hands-on with your medically-challenged child. But try working with your support team to define at least 30 minutes a day that you will be completely unavailable. By “shrinking the size of your backpack” you can help to ensure that your time won’t suddenly end up overfull every minute of the day.

3. Find Activities That You Enjoy, Too

Maybe you love everything that your child does. But for most of us, it can take significant exploration to discover activities that you can enjoy together. And it’s hard work to try new activities! Still, by pushing through the difficulty of finding and managing new experiences, you will eventually find summer activities that you can enjoy, too. Maybe it’s a board game, card game or puzzle. Or music, art or craft activities. Or maybe it’s an activity your child can enjoy while you are able to be with people that you like. Finding recreation for your child that is recreation for you, too, can make the summer much more enjoyable for you both.

Believe me, it can be hard to imagine how you will make it through 14 hours of care during a long, summer day. It’s easy to end up isolated and unhappy. But by taking initiative and drawing boundaries, you can make “long” days into “productive” days in which both you and your kids can make summer memories to last a lifetime.

Kristi Pikiewicz
Dr. Pikiewicz earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. She completed pre-doctoral training at the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center in Ojai, CA, and her post-doctoral internship at the Boulder Institute for Psychotherapy and Research. At both sites, Dr. Pikiewicz worked with a range of adult, adolescent and child clients in individual, couple, family and group settings. She also holds a B.S. in environmental science from Allegheny College and a teaching credential from Western Washington University.
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