The most important thing that you can do for yourself is to find support. Caregivers often feel alone with the problems they are facing and worry about sharing their troubles with someone else. It is important to find someone who will not judge you and who will listen well. Seek out someone who will accept your strong emotions, painful thoughts and serious concerns. One good option is to find a therapist who is trained to help survivors of sexual abuse or violence and their families. Participating in a parent/caregiver sexual abuse support group is another way to find support, understanding and coping skills. Your local rape crisis center or child advocacy center may offer support groups for parents, caregivers and children. These services are often free.
Your child is depending on your well-being, so live healthy. Eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and (although it may be temporarily comforting) avoid overeating, drugs, and too much alcohol. Manage your stress and go for regular medical check-ups. And get plenty of sleep. Sleep restores your energy, repairs your body and improves your concentration.
Be kind to yourself. Try to do something you enjoy every day; that might mean dancing, watching a favorite TV show, working in the garden, painting or reading. Allow yourself to relax; you might find meditation, yoga, getting a massage, taking a bath, walking, or exercising relaxing. Experiment to find out what works best for you.
Caregivers often feel guilty that they did not know or notice that their child was being sexually abused. If self-blame comes into your thoughts, remember that you love your child and are committed to their healing. Think about all of the things you are doing and will do to protect your child from further abuse and help him or her to heal. You are a good parent/caregiver and are responding to your child’s disclosure with courage. Blame only the person responsible for your child’s abuse: the abuser.
Likewise, make your needs known to those who can meet them. Ask questions and get answers. Let law enforcement, court officials, counselors and other people who are involved with your life now know what you and your child need. Be assertive by holding them responsible for listening to you with respect and responding with courtesy.
It is important to maintain a strong sense of self during this time of your life. Take time every day to write down your thoughts, feelings and observations in a journal. Journaling can help you to focus on the things that are most important to you and help relieve stress. Your journal is a good place to develop a few affirmations (short, positive statements about yourself, for example, “I am strong,” “I am smart,” “I am determined.”) Write your affirmations on sticky-notes and place them on the fridge, bathroom mirror, or any place you are sure to see them frequently. Throughout the day, repeat them to yourself. Listen to your body and thoughts, and make taking care of yourself a high priority.
– Parent Testimonial
Caring for a sexually abused child is demanding. It requires time, patience and understanding. To meet these demands, you must first take care of yourself. Download Recovery for Parents and Caregivers to see more ways to be kind to yourself at a difficult time in your life.