If You’re the Parent of a Special Needs Child, Here’s Why You Need to Start a Journal

Girl at the park writes in her personal diary

A journal isn’t just a place for teen girls to jot down thoughts about their latest crush. New research shows that mothers of special needs children can help manage caregiving-related stress through journal writing, allowing them to better focus on meeting the needs of their family.

Associate Professor Rondalyn V. Whitney, the director and founding chair of Clarkson University’s occupational therapy program, reports that mothers can get burned out if there is no one around to help them with day-to-day tasks. Taking advantage of support resources in the community is difficult because their children can’t be left unattended.

Stressed out moms have a negative impact on the entire family. “High maternal stress causes paternal stress, and high maternal stress decreases the child’s ability to benefit from treatment,” Whitney said.

Whitney’s research followed mothers of autistic children who were encouraged to express their feelings in an online journal. She observed a decrease in stress and an improvement in the relationship between the mother and child. This was likely due to the fact that journal writing gives moms a safe place to talk about any negative feelings they may have without having an adverse impact on the child. Writing also lets them reframe their problems and work toward finding solutions.

“There was a shift in what the mothers attributed the stress to,” she said. “Instead of saying, ‘My stress is due to being a mother,’ it shifts to, ‘I have a stressful life.’”

Keep in mind that you don’t need to be a professional writer to benefit from the therapeutic value of journaling. Spelling and grammar mistakes are perfectly OK. The goal is to provide you with a safe place to tell your own story, whatever it may be.

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