Self-Care Tips for Parents of Special Needs Children

November 2, 2018

The concept of selflessness is often seen as a virtue; and yet, if we fail to fulfill our own needs and nurture ourselves, we are less able to help and serve others. As a parent of a child with special needs, you probably spend most of your days so busy with the demanding needs of […]

Self-Care Tips for Parents of Special Needs Children

November 2, 2018

The concept of selflessness is often seen as a virtue; and yet, if we fail to fulfill our own needs and nurture ourselves, we are less able to help and serve others.

As a parent of a child with special needs, you probably spend most of your days so busy with the demanding needs of your family that you neglect to take care of yourself. For parents of special needs children, a little selfishness is an absolute must. In order to give the most of yourself, you have to be your best self. To be at your best, a committed regimen of self-care is a must.

Sleep

Among the most fundamental of needs is rest. Adequate sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. A full night’s sleep will boost your energy, mood, memory and creativity while lowering stress levels.

Nutrition

Good nutrition is not just a benefit to you as a parent, but it has a long-term impact on your children as well. You’ll teach them healthy eating habits that will carry on into adulthood as you improve your own health and longevity. Keeping your meals and snacks colorful with fruits and vegetables will provide energy and help you stave off lethargy as you boost your mental clarity.

Sunlight

Taking your child on a short walk to the local park or playground will benefit both of you as you get in some much needed sunlight and a bit of exercise. According to the World Health Organization, just five to fifteen minutes of casual sun exposure will provide you with the vitamin D benefits of the sun; this includes a general feeling of well-being along with numerous health benefits.

Support

Play dates are a great way to integrate your special needs child socially, but it also benefits you with some much-needed downtime. Make a list of friends and loved ones you can call or video chat with when you need to talk. Look for community support groups to find other parents in your area you can turn to for advice and understanding. You can also seek the professional guidance of a mental health specialist for additional support.

Meditate

Meditation can seem like an unnecessary indulgence or a waste of time to a busy parent, but numerous scientific studies have proven the many health benefits of meditation. Setting aside just five to ten minutes a day for some quiet reflection can help boost your immune system, manage stress, help you focus and boost your mood, to name just a few of the many health benefits. Meditation is easy, and something anyone can learn. Simply type “how to meditate” into a search engine or on YouTube and you’ll find several guides on how to get started on this simple practice.

If you’re a special needs parent and you’re struggling or just need some support, call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.


Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Practitioner who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families.

4 Fun Activities for You & Your ADHD Child

September 4, 2018

If you have a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, you know one of the main symptoms is hyperactivity. In other words, your child may seem to have an excess of energy, and all of that energy needs to be channeled. Unfortunately, modern kids are far less physically active than kids from just 20 […]

4 Fun Activities for You & Your ADHD Child

September 4, 2018

If you have a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, you know one of the main symptoms is hyperactivity. In other words, your child may seem to have an excess of energy, and all of that energy needs to be channeled.

Unfortunately, modern kids are far less physically active than kids from just 20 years ago. It used to be natural for kids to be outside running around and riding bikes, but many of today’s kids spend their time sedentary, watching television, and playing video games.

Clinical psychologists and psychotherapists are taking note of this change and expressing concern. Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School has said, “Being outside provides ADHD children with a more open environment to appropriately express their energy.”

And psychotherapist Terry Matlen, ACSW, agrees, “Children who are hyperactive and impulsive can release tension far easier being outside running, jumping, swinging, and playing sports than sitting indoors.”

If you want to reduce ADD/ADHD symptoms in your child, help them get their body moving. As a bonus, all of this physical movement will help your child improve their balance, coordination, and other gross motor skills.

Here are some fun activities you can enjoy with them.

Riding Bikes

Not only is bike riding a terrific aerobic exercise that is gentle on growing bones and joints (as well as aging bones and joints!), it’s a great way to explore your neighborhood or local community. When we drive by places in our cars, we tend to overlook many of the details and things that make our local communities special. But when we ride our bikes, we can take in much more.

Family Sports

If you’re lucky enough to have family members nearby, consider having a weekly family team sporting event. This could be family soccer games, touch football games, softball games, or whatever you come up with. Make the prizes fun, like losers cook winners’ dinner or losers mow winners’ lawn.

Yard Work

Speaking of mowing the lawn, having your kids help out with yard work can be a great way to spend time together while getting important tasks accomplished. Painting fences, raking leaves, and hauling things in the wheelbarrow are great ways for your kid to release energy. Plus, when you’ve completed a project together, your child will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Treasure Hunt

Whether it’s in your backyard, at the local park, or in a forest at the end of town, a treasure hunt is a creative way to get your kid exploring in the great outdoors, moving their body, and having an awesome time. Your treasure hunt could have an educational theme, like finding and solving math problems to get the next clue or learning about American Presidents with each treasure found.

Kids with ADD/ADHD are constantly being told to calm down and sit still. So getting them outdoors where they can move their bodies and explore will not only calm their hyperactivity and impulsiveness, but will also make them feel better about themselves.

If you or a loved one has a child that has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.


Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Practitioner who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families

Parenting the Highly Sensitive Child

April 1, 2018

If your child is sensitive to the emotions of others, worrisome and easily overwhelmed by changes or new people and environments, you may have a highly sensitive child. Parenting can be demanding, and parenting a highly sensitive child can present additional challenges. However, with a few simple strategies, you can better manage everyday problems and […]

Parenting the Highly Sensitive Child

April 1, 2018

If your child is sensitive to the emotions of others, worrisome and easily overwhelmed by changes or new people and environments, you may have a highly sensitive child. Parenting can be demanding, and parenting a highly sensitive child can present additional challenges. However, with a few simple strategies, you can better manage everyday problems and create a more peaceful home for the both of you.

Change Your Viewpoint

First, it’s important to change your viewpoint. Your initial reaction might be to see your highly sensitive child’s special needs as a detriment, rather than an asset. However, highly sensitive children tend to be more creative, insightful and empathic. With proper guidance and understanding, your child will grow into a happy and well-adjusted adult.

Encouragement and Praise

Your highly sensitive child will maintain his sensitivity into adulthood. Therefore, it’s crucial that he learn as a child to embrace and manage his emotions. Feeling shame about his sensitivity could cause him to develop anxiety and depression as he ages.

Validate your child’s feelings by encouraging him to express himself, and listen when he speaks. Encourage your child to manage his emotions rather than suppress them. Don’t ask or expect your child to “toughen up.”

Your sensitive child will also benefit from praise on a job well done, as this will help him develop confidence in himself.

Help Them Prepare

Sensitive children can become easily overwhelmed by new environments and people, so a little preparation can be helpful to both of you. For example, if your child is headed to a new classroom, prepare him a week or so in advance by visiting the school, playing in the playground and meeting some of the teachers. Reassure him that it’s natural to feel a little anxious, and that the other children are nervous as well.

Create a Safe Space

It’s often important for highly sensitive children to retreat to a quiet place where they can be alone with their thoughts. Their safe space can be a literal space you’ve created, or it can be as simple as a container of crayons, blank paper and their favorite stuffed animal in a quiet area of the house.

Get Involved

If you notice that your child tends to isolate or have great difficulty in social situations, try volunteering for field trips or as an occasional recess or lunch monitor. Encourage your child to participate by interacting with the other children. When he sees you having fun, he’s more likely to go from observing to participating.

With love and gentle guidance, your highly sensitive child will develop a confidence and self-acceptance that will carry him into adulthood. If you or your highly sensitive child needs guidance and support, please give me a call to schedule an appointment.


Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Physician who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families

Helping Your Teenager Transform into a Happy, Well-Rounded Adult

January 12, 2018

Raising kids is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. You do everything you can to make sure they stay safe and healthy. And then a study comes out that states that happy kids grow up to be more successful adults. (Great, so now they have to be happy as well!). It turns out that happiness is a […]

Helping Your Teenager Transform into a Happy, Well-Rounded Adult

January 12, 2018

Raising kids is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. You do everything you can to make sure they stay safe and healthy. And then a study comes out that states that happy kids grow up to be more successful adults. (Great, so now they have to be happy as well!).

It turns out that happiness is a big advantage in the real world. According to the study, happy people are more likely to earn a college degree, land a good job with better pay, and get promoted more quickly than unhappy people.

So how exactly can you help your teen transform into a happy and successful adult?

Build Resilience

Part of being happy comes from knowing your own resilience; knowing that when life knocks you down, you’ll get right back up. Resilience isn’t a latent talent, but a skill that can be developed.

You can help your child build resilience by teaching them how to put things into perspective. Being able to face challenges and adapt to constant change means recognizing the significance, or insignificance, of life events. Teach your kids not to sweat the small stuff and choose their battles wisely.

Instill Productivity

Feelings of accomplishment naturally lead to happiness. We feel good about ourselves when we are productive individuals. You can instill productivity in your child by helping them make decisions on their own over time. The more autonomy an individual has, the more able they are to get things done.

It’s also important that you help your teen discover their interests, talents and abilities. People that known their passions and what makes them tick have a knack for reaching goals.

Encourage Independence

It may seem counterintuitive, but teenagers cannot gain independence on their own. They simply don’t have the perspective or experience necessary to separate from you. Independence is actually a gift you give to your children. You can help your teen become more independent by:

  • Teaching responsibility – Help your kid have a clear understanding of what is expected of them at home and at school as well as the consequences for not fulfilling those expectations.
  • Demand Accountability – Make sure you stick to your guns and see those consequences through to the end. If you don’t hold your child accountable for their own behavior and actions, how will they be able to hold themselves accountable as adults?
  • Practice letting go – It’s important not to send mixed signals to your teen during this time. As you help them become more independent, practice letting them go. Be open to stepping back as they step forward.

You and your teenager are embarking on an exciting journey; one with many ups and downs. The best thing you can do is to let your kid know you are there for them and that they can talk to you about anything. Good communication is crucial during this time.

If you could use some help talking with your teenager, consider family therapy. A therapist can facilitate effective communication and offer tools that will help your teen become the adult they are meant to be.

If you’d like to explore therapy, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I might be able to help you.


Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Physician who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families.

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Parent

December 18, 2017

The hard work and unpredictability that makes parenting so rewarding can also cause a great deal of anxiety. Here are some simple ways to bring yourself to a place of calm. Make a To-Do List Ruminating on worries can cause lots of stress. Clear your mind by making a to-do list. Put down everything that […]

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Parent

December 18, 2017

The hard work and unpredictability that makes parenting so rewarding can also cause a great deal of anxiety. Here are some simple ways to bring yourself to a place of calm.

Make a To-Do List
Ruminating on worries can cause lots of stress. Clear your mind by making a to-do list. Put down everything that needs to be done into your phone or onto a sheet of paper, and as you write them down, visualize yourself removing this task from your mind onto the list.

Watch Your Language
Many times parents believe things will get better when their children move on to the next phase of their maturity. However, the truth is that the worry will continue until you change your pattern of thought. To do this, watch the language you use to describe things. Don’t use phrases such as, “this will be a disaster if I don’t get it done on time” or “I’ll die of embarrassment if I forget.”

Also change thoughts of “I have to” to “I want to”. For example, instead of saying “I have to sign the kids up for karate” say, “I want to sign the kids up for karate because I know they’ll love it.”

Get Some Fresh Air
There’s nothing like some fresh air and sunlight to ease anxiety. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk around the block, to a neighbor’s house, or a local park. Take your kids to an outdoor mall or sit on the patio of a frozen yogurt shop and share a frozen treat. You can also try your local library. Some libraries also have outdoor patio areas where you can read with your kids.

Practice Mindfulness Exercises
If your anxiety is difficult to control, try deep-breathing from your belly. While you do this, concentrate on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This can help calm you when you’re feeling a panic or anxiety attack start to arise.

Use Your Support Network
Call your friends or family to chat or ask for advice. It may also help to vent with a Facebook parenting group or other online message board. You can also call your therapist and make an appointment and work through your challenges.

Try these tips to control and cope with your anxiety, and enjoy the time with your children free from worry.

If you find your anxiety to be impacting your ability to be a happy, successful parent, it might be time to speak with a professional who can help. Please contact me today for an initial consultation.


Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Physician who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

November 15, 2017

Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional times in a person’s life. It’s hard enough wrapping your own head around the event, but trying to break the news to your children can be especially difficult. Many parents struggle having this conversation because they worry they may not be able […]

How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

November 15, 2017

Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional times in a person’s life. It’s hard enough wrapping your own head around the event, but trying to break the news to your children can be especially difficult.

Many parents struggle having this conversation because they worry they may not be able to keep their emotions in check. They also wonder if shielding their kids from the ensuing pain isn’t the loving thing to do.

Though it may seem like avoiding this conversation is the right idea, it can actually be quite detrimental to your kids and, in the end, cause behavioral or emotional issues. While it will no doubt be difficult and uncomfortable, having an open and honest conversation about your divorce is the best thing to do.

Here are some guidelines:

Have Both Parents Break the News

This might be difficult for some couples, but ideally, a joint conversation with your children is the best option for a few reasons:

  • They’ll get the same message from both of you instead of a he-said, she-said scenario.
  • It shows them that no matter what, when it comes to parenting, you are both committed and on the same page.
  • It instills a sense of security that though family dynamics are changing, there will still be a family structure that you will all create together.

Be Transparent

You may feel uncomfortable during the conversation and want to be… less than honest at times, but it’s important to be completely transparent while speaking with your kids.

First of all, children have a knack for sniffing out dishonesty in adults. Trying to pull one over on them, even if you believe it’s for their own good, may only cause them to feel angry and resentful. Also, if you don’t give kids truthful answers, they will wind up creating their own answers just to quell the anxiety.

Obviously, there may be age-appropriate guidelines to the discussion, and specific language may have to be either included or excluded, but at the end of the day, honesty truly is the best policy.

Discuss Upcoming Changes

When children are told their parents are getting divorced, they can’t conceive of what that means in terms of what life will be like in the future. It’s important that you let them know what they can expect when it comes to things like where they will live and how much time they will have with each parent. If you yourselves don’t have all of those answers yet, then communicate this to your children and let them know you will share this information as soon as you’ve made decisions.

Don’t Push Your Children for a Reaction

Once the news has been broken, many parents want immediate feedback from their kids. But it’s important to remember that children will all process the news differently. Some kids may feel comfortable talking openly about their feelings, while others may struggle. While your intentions may be good, pushing your children to give you a reaction before they are ready to react can be detrimental.

The best thing you can do is to let your children know you love them, and that you are available to them whenever they are ready to share their thoughts and feelings, or if they have more questions.

The divorce process will be difficult for all family members to cope with, and it may be difficult for everyone to communicate effectively when emotions are running high. If you feel you could use some help, it’s a great idea to seek support and guidance from a family therapist. They will be able to facilitate loving and open communication and help your family adjust to the changes that lie ahead.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.


Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Physician who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families.