6 Tips to Help Special Needs Parents Balance Work and Childcare
Balancing work and childcare is never easy, but when you’re caring for a child with special needs, the challenges are even greater.
The caring role can be extremely unpredictable; hospital appointments, therapy sessions, sudden illnesses … they can all mean having to take time off work. Finding specialist childcare for the school holidays is no small task, and then of course there’s the strain of combining work and care. Carers are more than twice as likely to suffer from poor health than anyone else. Many are sleep-deprived, emotionally drained and stressed out. Little wonder that so many working carers find it hard to cope.
"Work is My Respite"
Working is not only financially important for many carers, it can also be vital to their sense of well-being. “Working is my respite,” says one working carer on the Scope forum. “It’s the only time I get to complete a task in peace and quiet, plus it reminds me that I’m more than just a carer.”
So How do you Successfully Balance Work and Caring?
That’s the million-dollar question. It’s never easy, but there are strategies you can put in place to help it work. Here are some of the tips working carers have shared with Scope.
1. It helps if you have a good relationship with your employer.
Investigate the possibilities of home working or flexible working. Talk frankly about your caring situation, but always approach these discussions from the point of view of ‘what is best for the business’.
2. Remember you are a valuable asset
Recruiting and training staff is expensive. If you have to leave work because of your caring responsibilities, it can be quite a big loss to your employer. In many cases, it would be more economic to support carers to stay in work by ensuring there is a support framework in place. It never hurts to point this out.
3. Sort out your school holiday childcare
Knowing that your child is happy and well cared for will reduce your own stress considerably. Check out holiday play schemes and charities, such as Scope, who provide short break and respite care services. Ask at your child’s school/nursery/college if any staff would like to work for you during the holidays. Ask if you can put up a notice.
4. Organize your home life
Buy two of non-perishable items like washing up liquid, so you always have one in reserve. Have a whiteboard in the kitchen to write on when things run out. Plan your meals for the week – even think about having Tuesday as curry night, Wednesday pasta, Friday fish, etc to save time thinking. If you can afford to, get a cleaner.
5. Never neglect your ‘me time’
This is hugely important. Include some sort of stress-busting exercise in your weekly routine – whether it’s swimming, walking the dog or T’ai chi. Keep in touch with friends, and make time to do something you really enjoy at least once a week. If you have a partner, make sure you schedule time for yourselves as a couple too.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Friends and family may be more willing to help than you realise. People often don’t know how they can support you unless you tell them. Make a list of practical suggestions you can use to ask friends and family for help, such as ironing or mowing the lawn. Organise a rota of emergency overnight carers or people who might be able to help with the school run.
For more tips and practical suggestions for supporting children and adults with disabilities visit Scope!
Emma Sterland helps run the online community at Scope, a national UK-based disability charity, offering support for disabled people and their families. All the tips used in this post were contributed by members of the online community, and can be seen in the tips section of the community .