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How to set goals that feel right for you

It can be difficult to narrow down your feeling of wanting to be a better caregiver into specific goals. Here are some steps to take.

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Ask the right questions

A good first step is to ask yourself these questions, writing down your answers if possible:

  • What does your child want or need from you?
  • What do you want for yourself? Be as specific as possible - for example, “I want to be well rested and calm each time I talk to my child’s doctor” or “I want to eat healthy while staying in the hospital so that I have more energy.” 
  • What kind of parent do you want to be?
  • What is your wish for your child(ren)? 
  • What are your hopes for 5 years from now? Describe your vision completely.
  • In what ways have you had success as a parent before the onset of your child’s illness, and in what ways were there challenges? Think of specific examples.
  • Are you ready to set a goal now, or is this a time when you are simply in survival mode? Is there a better time in the future that you might like to revisit this goal?
Make sure your goals are SMART

Your chances of meeting your goal are much higher if you create SMART goals. This means goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

The goal of being a better parent, while worthwhile, is too broad without narrowing it into concrete specifics. What does being a better parent look like to you? Devon’s goal of learning more about his son’s treatment plan followed the SMART approach. It was specific, he could measure it by assessing his own knowledge during and after visits with the provider, it was achievable and realistic, and he could work on it immediately.


Acknowledge your limitations

The stress, fear, and uncertainty that arises when you support your child through their health challenges can change the way you react to your child. You may find it harder to listen as well as you used to, or to give your child the space they need. You may also feel frustrated that your own responsibilities as a caretaker have grown, leaving you less time for other things you want to do. These are very normal reactions to the situation you are in, and should be taken into consideration when you are setting your goals.

For example, perhaps a goal in your “old life” would have been to attend all of your children’s sporting events, but now the best you can do is try for one a month.

Self-compassion can be a very useful perspective that helps you remember to treat yourself as you would a good friend, and give yourself a break.

Set goals appropriate to your stage in the journey

Not everyone is ready to make a change in the way they parent right now. You may be in acute crisis mode if your child has been hospitalized or has just received a new diagnosis. In these cases, making changes to the way you parent may be too difficult to manage.

Instead, you can continue asking yourself, “Am I ready to do this now? Or am I still working towards being ready?”

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