So, we know how to meet our children's needs when they can't talk and we know that we may need to remain detectives long after language develops. We also know that caring for our children's needs begins with self-care so we can stay calm enough to be attentive to their needs. So what next?
Two words: self care!
Parental self-care is paramount for children of any age irrespective of whether or not they have "special needs" so you can respond to their need...in a way that "feels" emotionally regulated and relationally present.
You may be wondering, "If I'm meeting their need, why do I need to be "emotionally regulated and relationally present" too? Isn't it enough that I changed their diaper? Tucked them into bed? Helped them get a snack? I have to be calm and present while I do that?
Infants from birth tune into the emotional experience of the primary caregivers and if the caregiver is emotionally overwhelmed or absent, even as they are engaged in meeting these basic needs, the infant experiences overwhelment or abandonment. We all know we can be in a quiet space with few people present and still need the proverbial knife to cut through the tension. Or we can be in a room full of people and feel disconnected and alone. Babies are no different. They are wired to attend to the emotional quality of the caregiver because their lives depend on it.
So, taking care of your children means tuning in to and meeting their (often unspoken) needs in a way that is calm and present. That means you have to begin by tuning in and taking care of your own needs in a kind caring way on a regular, ongoing basis in order to be able to do this. Much like self-compassion being the root to compassion for others, caring for others requires that we care for ourselves first.
So, because your children matter to you, what do you do to take care of yourself?