Although it is unpopular to admit or discuss, and though I love them dearly, I used to feel trapped by the circumstances of my children’s special needs. I imagine many parents feel that way.
Recently I introduced the idea of affirmations as one tool parents can use to increase their sense of peace, happiness, and power over their lives.
Affirmations are statements used to effect change in one’s life. They use positive language that reflects what a person wants (or wants more of) in their life, not what they don’t want.
The premise of affirmations—and why they work—is that people have more power over their lives than they usually believe, even when constrained by a challenging and seemingly unchangeable situation like a child with special needs.
Years ago, affirmations were considered rather avant-garde, but they have gained in mainstream popularity because, well…they work.
I first started using affirmations in the heyday of my most stressful parenting years. My days were packed with activities related to childcare and trying to keep everyone in the family on an even emotional keel. I barely had a moment to myself, and when I did, my mind was filled with worries and thoughts of everything I had to do.
I started out small, with just a few affirmations written on tiny pieces of paper. I wish I had saved them so I could look back at them now. I remember them as simple “I am” or “I have” statements followed by an adjective describing something I wanted more of in my life.
- I am confident.
- I am peaceful.
- I am patient.
- I am loved and appreciated.
- I have at least some free time to myself every day.
I would repeat these out loud to myself throughout my day. I’d say them in the morning after the kids got on the school bus. I would say them out loud in the car at stoplights. During the hectic late afternoon and dinnertime hours, I’d put the slip of paper on the kitchen counter so it was visible, saying one or two affirmations at a time.
Moving from awkward to uplifted
At first it seemed awkward, as if I didn’t fully believe what I was saying. But the more I used affirmations, the better I felt. Saying them brought me into a better mindset, as opposed to continually dwelling on worries. I felt uplifted.
Also, when something happened related to the affirmations, I noticed and appreciated these instances more. Perhaps my husband came home early and I was unexpectedly able to take a walk by myself, thus getting some free time that day. The more I noticed and appreciated small instances like this, I swear, the more they occurred. Using affirmations led to a positive, upward spiral that subtly improved the quality of my life, even though nothing else had changed.
A few suggestions to help you create affirmations
While I can’t teach the ins and outs of affirmations in this article, there are many great resources for that.
- A good overview from Psychology Today
- A recommended book is Louise Hay’s seminal book, You Can Heal Your Life, which has sold over 50 million copies worldwide. That’s a heckuva lot of books; she must be onto something.
- And you can also search the web for some specifics related to your situation by typing into your browser “affirmations for [fill in the blank].”
With that said, here are a few points I found to be important through trial and error.
- Affirmations are about YOU
- You cannot directly influence anyone else’s life through affirmations, but you can improve your own. And you can indirectly help someone else by changing yourself for the better. So it won’t work to say, “Jacob stops having fits every morning getting ready for school,” but you can affirm, “I am patient and calm while helping Jacob learn his morning routine.” You might then want to tack on, “I have a few moments to myself to regroup after Jacob leaves for school.”
- Affirmations need to be within the realm of feasibility for you
- If you find yourself mentally scoffing “yeah, right” every time you say an affirmation, that affirmation probably won’t work. Instead, scale it down into the realm of believability for you. Instead of, “I am a billionaire,” say, “I am financially secure.” An affirmation can and should be a stretch. It might not be true now, or it may only be a teeny bit true. But you must believe, truly believe, that it can become even more true.
- You can write your own affirmations
- Your own words resonate with you more than anybody else’s, so affirmations you’ve written are the most effective. You can find all kinds of affirmations on the web and in books, and they are good starting points. Tweak them and make them yours.
- Review and revise your affirmations periodically
- Every so often, change your affirmations. I used to write mine monthly; now I rewrite them every few months. Keep old ones that still resonate, but eliminate those that no longer seem as pertinent. This makes room for new ones.
- Make it fun
- The last thing a busy parent needs is another “to do” on the list, so make saying your affirmations varied and fun. Sing them to music. Say them out loud while walking around the block. Sing them while dancing around the house or walking the neighborhood listening to music. I used to do this. Who cares what it looks like if it helps to improve your life and is fun?! Play with it and find what works for you.
You do have power
As a loving parent of a special needs child, there are circumstances in your life you cannot change and responsibilities you choose to keep. Even within those constraints, you have power to better shape your life the way you want. Affirmations are one method to help you do this. I invite you to give them a try!
I’m curious—have you ever used affirmations as a tool to help yourself as a parent or for anything else? If so, what’s your favorite affirmation? Please comment below. My personal all-time favorite is “Every day, in every way, my life gets better and better.”