Self-Care for Parents of Children with Neurofibromatosis

Tips and strategies for minimizing stress and feeling less overwhelmed.

A young mom relaxes with a cup of tea and a book. Self-care is important for parents who care for a child with a medical condition like NF1.

Having a child with a chronic medical condition can be overwhelming for parents. While it may be difficult to leave your child’s side, it’s important for you to take breaks and take care of yourself. Taking time for yourself can minimize emotional exhaustion and lower stress levels. The following list includes tips and strategies to keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

  • Learn about your child’s diagnosis. Staying informed and asking questions may help ease your fears and keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Ask for help. Whether you and your partner take turns or you ask other family members and friends to help out, delegating responsibilities such as cleaning your home, grocery shopping, cooking, or making appointments can relieve stress.
  • Make time for yourself. Schedule a spa day, spend time in meditation, go for a hike, have coffee with a friend, or simply spend an hour reading a book or watching your favorite television show. Give yourself time to recharge for another day.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Staying active, drinking water, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep can reduce stress and lift your mood. It can also help keep your own health in check while ensuring that you have the energy to care for your child.
  • “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Even if you think you can’t make it through another day, the act of going through the motions can have a positive impact on your daily outlook. The simple acts of taking a shower or going for a walk can increase your happiness and create a positive feedback loop.
  • Be compassionate toward yourself. Beyond making time for yourself, it’s important to give yourself the space to feel your emotions. Let yourself feel sad, but don’t let yourself feel guilty. Don’t focus on the “what ifs” and, instead, focus on all the good things you’ve done for your child and for yourself.
  • Consider attending therapy or support groups. Therapists can help you figure out how to balance your time and your emotions as a caregiver so you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Support groups provide a community where you can talk to parents who are experiencing similar challenges.

Remember that you have to take care of yourself in order to care for your child. Self-care can result in lower stress and less emotional exhaustion as well as more patience and healthy habits. You don’t need to be a super-parent, and you don’t need to be perfect. But taking the time to “fill your own cup” means you will be able to provide the energy you need to care for your child.

Article sources open article sources

Queensland Children's Hospital. "Caring for your sick child: A Guide for Parents and Carers."
Erin Leyba. "25 Simple Self-Care Tools for Parents." Psychology Today. August 18, 2017.
Children's Tumor Foundation. "The NF Parent Guidebook."
Harvard Health Publishing. "5 ways to care for yourself while caring for a loved one."
Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. "Want to Be a Better Parent? Start by Taking Care of Yourself."
Child Mind Institute. "Why Self-Care Is Essential to Parenting." "A Guide to Self-Care for Parents: Why Making Time For Yourself Matters."
American Psychological Association. "When your child is diagnosed with chronic illness."

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