As many as 1 in every 88 children born in the world today can expect a diagnosis of autism, and that means that 1 in every 88 parents is putting themselves in a stressful situation. Children with a diagnosis in the autism spectrum disorder are still amazing kids, but there is no denying that it is a different way to raise a child than is thought to be traditional, and for many parents that can cause a significant amount of anxiety.
Anxiety because of an autistic child is natural. But unfortunately, it can not only affect your quality of life - it can also affect the quality of life of your child.
Learn to Control Your Anxiety
When the stress of child rearing becomes overwhelming, you owe it to yourself to find relief. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more about effective anxiety reduction strategies.
Different Types of Anxiety
Raising a child in general is stressful. Many parents find that they start to have a host of anxiety problems as a result of simply child rearing, since raising a child is a demanding job. If you haven't done so yet, take my free anxiety test to get to know your anxiety symptoms further.
When your child also has one of the autism spectrum disorders, the difficulties can add up. It's not just whether or not your child is more/less difficult than other children. It's also that you're often left without help raising your child, with fewer places to turn to when you need it.
The Importance of Developing an Anxiety Reduction Strategy
From the moment you receive an autism diagnosis, your life has changed. You may have been an anxious person before, you may not, but the more you deal with stress the more likely the development of anxiety will occur.
It's important that you start seeking help for that anxiety as soon as possible. Many parents allow their anxiety to get out of control, partially because the anxiety itself can create guilt that the parent may not want to accept. But there are two important reasons to seek help immediately:
- You Owe It To Your Child Children are extremely receptive to emotions, and often learn how to feel from their parents. Parents that are happier often raise happier children. Parents that are anxious often raise more anxious children. Your child's autism is already a barrier, so ensuring that you aren't contributing to it by being overly anxious is important.
- You Owe It To Yourself Having a child shouldn't alter your life in a way that makes it worse. You owe it yourself to regain control of your anxiety. Your child wouldn't want to know that you're suffering because of them, and you shouldn't consider your life second place because of your child.
Studies have shown that parents that are more anxious are more likely to have children with behavior issues, and parents themselves tend to suffer more leading to a cycle of stress.
How to Control Your Anxiety with an Autistic Child
Anxiety is still anxiety like any other. Rarely is your autistic child the only cause of your anxiety, nor should it be the only issue you try to treat. But there are some tools that will get you off on the right foot:
- Join Support Groups Linking yourself to other parents of those with children with an autism spectrum disorder should be your priority. It will help you feel less alone, give you someone to talk to when you need help, and provide you with tips and tricks for raising a healthy autistic child. There are several autism spectrum groups in most major cities, and you can likely create one yourself if one does not yet exist.
- Follow the Research There are a lot of proven and disproven beliefs about anxiety. You do an injustice to yourself and your child to give in to irrational beliefs. Learn real research about autism so that you know the best way to raise your child, and give them the best chance of adapting to modern culture.
- Accept the Autism No child is perfect. Some children are moody. Some children are poor students. And some children have autism. Every child needs to be raised their own specific way. Learn to accept the autism as just a specific development need of your child, rather than something that changes their life forever. It's a disorder like anything else - it's not unlike your anxiety disorder - and it should be addressed without you being upset with yourself or your child over it.
There's no magic fix for anxiety, just as there is no magic fix for autism. The key is to commit to the idea that you need to treat your anxiety, and that your anxiety is something worth treating.
Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more. You'll get recommended anxiety treatments along with your complete anxiety profile, and you can use that information to reduce your anxiety and help yourself be the great parent you want to be.
Debra L. Rezendes and Angela Scarpa Associations between Parental Anxiety/Depression and Child Behavior Problems Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Roles of Parenting Stress and Parenting Self-Efficacy. Autism Research and Treatment Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 395190, 10 pages doi:10.1155/2011/395190
Sukhodolsky, Denis G., et al. Parent-rated anxiety symptoms in children with pervasive developmental disorders: Frequency and association with core autism symptoms and cognitive functioning. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 36.1 (2008): 117-128.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.