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Easy Therapy for Special Needs Parents (And Everyone Else)


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It goes without saying that special needs parents have a lot of reasons for being stressed and overwhelmed. Appointments crowd the schedule, meltdowns confuse us, and daily life turns into survival mode pretty easily. And that’s just one area of our lives. That doesn’t include other life stressors. Sometimes the overwhelm makes us want to curl up into a ball. And the stress doesn’t really go away. You might get a break, but the stress comes back. I have recently discovered something that helps with this. Doodling in a bullet journal.

I first wanted to use bullet journaling for writing and business as well as homeschooling. Being the recovering perfectionist I am, I had to research how to bullet journal. People told me “just make it your own”, but how could I make it my own if I didn’t understand it? Enter frustrating hours of watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts. I began sinking internally, feeling like this was just too much for me. Then I found this post from The Lazy Genius, and she saved me. I may have given up before I started if I hadn’t read her post. She makes it so easy!

So I started two bullet journals (And have let both go by the wayside…). While looking around Instagram at other people’s bullet journal pictures, I saw a lot of doodling in the bullet journal community and thought I’d create a “happy book”. The happy book would be a combination of a gratitude journal and various doodles of scripture, songs, and whatever else I felt like.

Learn how scripture doodling can help special needs parents! via jennyherman.comI’ve heard people talk about activities that “ground” them or feeling “grounded”. I never really understood that. By personality I tend to be a little more easily stressed and worried. I’ve been working on it. So feeling grounded isn’t really my specialty and was foreign to me.

Until recently. One morning I decided to combat feelings of anxiety by listening to worship songs and doodling Scripture. After a little while, I realized I had calmed down significantly. An odd feeling I rarely experience had come over me. “This is what be what feeling grounded is,” I thought. I decided to make this a morning routine–getting myself ready to face the day by listening to music about God and drawing verses, lyrics, or other things. You can do this with inspirational quotes as well, or whatever you like! (For more on bullet journaling and mental health, read this.)

Sadly this routine didn’t last long. In fact, I’m trying to get back to it. Want to join me? Here’s what you need:

  • Some sort of notebook. You could use a more “official” bullet journal like the Leuchtturm (affiliate link). If you’re using markers, people like the paper weight of this journal. I am using a pretty composition book from the local dollar store. Really, you could even use plain old copy paper.
  • Writing utensils. Again, you could use some fancy markers or regular pens, pencils, crayons, whatever suits your fancy. I like using colored ball point pens and colored pencils.
  • Imagination and inspiration. I kind of lack imagination, so I scroll through Instagram to look for ideas of doodling and lettering. I like Surely Simple. You can go to her site and go to the top and follow her on Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram, whichever you like, or browse her blog. Lisa of has a series on lettering that may help you as well. When I follow someone’s tutorial or tweak it to be my own, I often note their name so I can go back and look for more ideas from them. At the front or back of your notebook you could start a collection of quotes or verses you’d like to turn into doodles. When I’m reading the Bible on my phone and come across a verse I want to reread many times, I take a screen shot. I have used this collection of screen shots to find verses to doodle. If you’re not an artist, don’t stress! Play around with different letter shapes and sizes. Emphasize words by using color. Stuck? Just write some quotes down and change color for specific words. Don’t let yourself get hung up on having to be a good draw-er. (Is that a word? And, I’m speaking to myself here. I really had to get over that!)
  • Time. I recommend doodling in the morning to get yourself calm and focused or at the end of the day to relax before bed. However, you may want to try other times. Maybe you have your notebook handy while you dictate spelling sentences to your child. The afternoon slump would be another great time for some doodling. Whatever works for you!
  • Grace. Be kind to yourself. It takes time to develop a new habit. Remember this is for relaxation. Take it from me–it doesn’t help you relax to get stressed out over it!

Discover a simple therapy for special needs parents! via jennyherman.comIf you’d rather skip the doodling part and would simply like to color someone else’s design, check out these two options

Free inspirational adult coloring pages

Adult coloring book of Bible verses with bonuses for pre-order

Want to use bullet journaling for things other than doodling, the actual planning stuff? Boho Berry is a good resource. This video shows the original suggested set up from Ryder Carroll. Rebecca of Hip Homeschooling Blog also provides help and inspiration for bullet journaling.

Do you use any creative activity to help you de-stress? Is there a creative outlet that helps your child relax? I’d love to know. Just leave a comment below.

I’ve got a FREE ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just fill out the form below and tell me where to send it!

Feeling stressed? Use these tips to help you bring calm to your life! via

12 Ways to Create Calm

Life is Stressful

Let’s face it. Life has a knack for being stressful, hectic, and chaotic. We face demands from our spouses, kids, extended family, friends, bank accounts, jobs, outside interests, and more. If you’re one of my special needs readers, that adds another layer of stress.

I can’t wave a magic wand and make your life calmer. I can, however, pass on things that help me deal with stress. I published this two years ago, but these tips are applicable any time!


Discover tips to save your sanity! via

10 Steps to Cleaning a Child’s Room without Losing your Mind

One of parenting’s great problems: (cue scary music) Clean kid rooms

More than likely you’ve had those days when stepping into your child’s room takes great courage and agility. You see stuffed animals and toys strewn around the floor, dirty clothes that didn’t make it to the basket, papers on the floor, and Legos waiting to stab your feet. You sigh and walk away, too weary to argue.

I’ve been there! I’m by no means the Dali Llama of clean kids rooms, but I do have some steps that have helped us make the cleaning experience less traumatic for all.



Learn how to include #specialneeds kids in #birthdayparties! via

The Minimalist Guide to Birthday Parties: How to Have an Inclusive Party

Welcome to the last installment in the Minimalist Guide to Birthdays! As I’ve hosted and attended birthday parties over the years, I’ve come up with a list of ways you can move toward including special needs children at the parties you host.

1. Food — Food allergies and sensitivities are on the rise. When you host a birthday party, if you take the extra step of asking parents if their child has any food issues, you make a huge difference. If you can afford it, find a way to have something each child can eat. For example, we deal with gluten and dairy issues. I usually plan on bringing cupcakes for my boys to a party we attend. One time a mom had her friend grab some gluten free cupcakes from a store’s freezer on her way over. Another time parents ordered a gluten free pizza for my boys. I was so thankful! You may not be able to afford a gluten free pizza, but you could ask the parent for ideas of things that the food-sensitive child can eat.

2. Physical access — Are you inviting someone in a wheelchair or who has mobility challenges? Ask ahead of time what you can do to make it easier for them to participate in your party. Do you need to clear out some extra items around your living room? Will you need to have someone help them up your stairs? Asking ahead of time is an act of kindness

3. Sensory — If you know you have a special needs child coming, ask if they have any sensory issues. Inquire if there’s anything you can do to help make him more comfortable. For example, perhaps you could keep music turned down a bit to a tolerable level. Does a child avoid texture? Don’t make a big deal if he doesn’t want to play a game with ooze.

4. Athletic ability — Some special needs children cannot participate on the same physical level as their peers. Try to make game time less pressure and more about having fun. Consider making games into team activities as opposed to individual.

5. Calm space — All children get overstimulated at times. Think about offering a quiet, calm place where children can take a break from the party frenzy if needed. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just a spot with a blanket and stuffed animal in a room away from all the noise. You may never use it, but many special needs parents would be amazed if it were offered.

6. Patience — Your patience when things don’t go as expected is a big gift to a special needs child and her parents. The calmer you are, the easier it is for the situation to turn around. Does a child have difficulty communicating? Don’t rush them, just wait for them to get out their words. Did someone grab a treat off the table early? Redirect or just let it go. Is a child spinning in circles away from everyone else? He’s trying to calm down. Just let him come back to the party when he’s ready.

With these six steps, you can make a difference for a special needs child that attends a party in your home. Special needs parents, is there anything you’d add? I’d love to hear!

Want to read the rest of this birthday party series? Start here.

I’m putting together a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents! My newsletters subscribers will be the first to get it…FOR FREE! Just click the button below to sign up and you’ll be in the know.

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The Minimalist Guide to Birthdays: Off-site Parties

I hope the Minimalist Guide to Birthdays has been helpful for you. Let’s continue with off-site parties!

I used to think off-site parties had to be expensive. I couldn’t afford a Chuck E. Cheese bash, that was certain. However, I’ve had and been to some fun, successful off-site parties that didn’t break the bank.

There are two key ingredients:

1. Use your resources. Brainstorm what you already have that you could incorporate. Think about where you have access already.

2. Keep it small. Your child does not need ten people to have a fun party.

These three locales have worked well. May they inspire you to some great party ideas!


1. Museum – We have a membership to a local museum. We invited a cousin who also had a membership and we had a free ticket for a friend. But what about the party? I created a scavenger hunt. When the kids were younger, the clues were really easy. As they got older, I increased the challenge. I gave the kids paper bags and brought stickers and markers for them to decorate them. Then they used those bags to collect the small items I hid at various locations. My hubby was the designated watcher. He went ahead and hid the prizes at the spots and watched to make sure some other child didn’t discover and walk off with them. The kids had fun with the hunt and loved the prizes. Think small affordable prizes! Then they could stay and walk around the museum if they wanted or go home if it had been enough of a day.

From a special needs perspective, there are a couple other reasons this worked well for us. My son was familiar with the museum. I was not taking him to an unknown, overwhelming place. Also, keeping it small cut down on stimulation.

2. Park – Our family has winter birthdays, but my sister has had success with this venue. Simply turn a picnic into a birthday party. Again, keeping it in budget. Determine what you can afford to decide how many people to invite. A park often has a playground which is instant entertainment for kids. Bike riding or skateboarding are additional options. Decorations are minimal since you’re outside. Outside games are easy to create with materials you have at home or from your local dollar store.

3. Bowling alley – I thought this would be expensive, but if you keep it small, it’s not too bad. Repeating myself, determine your budget first. We planned to bowl two games. In our case, we have food allergies so we couldn’t eat at the bowling alley. That actually saved us money! We went to Burger King afterward and each child got to choose french fries or a sundae for a treat. In our case it was our two boys and a cousin, so it was very small but still fun.

As you can see, you don’t have to spend a fortune to host an off-site birthday party. Have you had any successful off-site parties you’d like to share? I’d love to hear!

Get #birthdayparty ideas at!

The Minimalist Guide to Birthdays: Fun Activities

We’ve been talking about birthday parties with less fuss. Note, I did NOT say less fun! You can give your kids a great birthday party without spending lots of money. If you are just joining the party, pun intended, start over here at post #1.

Your children  can have lots of fun with a few dollar store purchases, items around the house, and things you borrow from friends and family. Here’s a list to get you started. (more…)

Get great #birthdayparty ideas now!

The Minimalist Guide to Birthdays: Easy Decorations & Snacks

Welcome to Part 2 in my birthday party series! In Part 1, the “Minimalist’s Guide to Birthdays“, I explained why I’m doing the series and discussed birthday party mom-guilt. Another reason we have minimalist parties in our home that I forgot to mention is that it cuts down on overstimulation for Dr. J.

Today we’re talking easy decorations and snacks. Let’s get started! (more…)

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The Minimalist Guide to Birthdays

Birthday Parties: Prime Place for Mom Guilt

One January I was browsing Pinterest to get ideas for Meatball’s superhero birthday party. While I did get some ideas to transform into my own, I was glad I wasn’t already having a bad day. There is so much out there to make us feel like less-than moms! So many gorgeous pictures of seemingly perfect birthday parties with elaborate decorations and an abundance of games, prizes, and treats.

Now, before some of you yell at me for saying that, yes, I know that some of those women love to be creative and their budget is bigger than mine. I know that some of them are amazingly talented and can do just about anything with craft supplies. I don’t begrudge them that.

However, I decided to do a series on birthday parties to help the rest of us–the ones who don’t have time or money to have a magazine-worthy birthday party and those of us who hate crafting or don’t have much creativity. Thus, I bring to you…