Coping strategies and stress in mothers of children with autism spectrum condition and ADHD during the COVID 19 pandemic



The COVID-19 pandemic forced a dramatic shift in how we live, work, and interact with the world. While everyone faced challenges, some groups shouldered a heavier burden. Mothers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) found themselves navigating a particularly complex set of obstacles. A new study published in May 2024 by “Specijalna edukacija i rehabilitacija” (Special Education and Rehabilitation) sheds light on the experiences of these mothers in Croatia during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

This research offers valuable insights into the unique stressors faced by these mothers, the coping mechanisms they employed, and the importance of support systems.


A Perfect Storm of Challenges


The mothers in this study faced a confluence of challenges during the initial lockdown in Croatia. Not only were they grappling with the global pandemic and its uncertainties, but the region also experienced a local earthquake, adding another layer of stress and disruption. School closures, a cornerstone of support for children with ASD and ADHD, were implemented, leaving mothers scrambling to create structure and manage their children’s needs within a completely altered environment.

The specific challenges reported by the mothers included:

  • Loss of Routine and Structure: Children with ASD and ADHD often thrive on predictable routines. School closures meant a significant disruption to these routines, leading to increased anxiety and behavioral difficulties for the children.
  • Increased Demands on Mothers: With schools closed, the responsibility for their children’s education and behavioral management fell largely on the mothers. Many mothers also juggled work-from-home demands, further straining their resources.
  • Heightened Anxiety and Uncertainty: The pandemic itself was a source of anxiety for everyone. Mothers with children with ASD and ADHD reported feeling particularly overwhelmed by the unknown and the lack of control over the situation.

These combined factors created a significant strain on the mental and emotional well-being of these mothers.

Finding Strength in Resilience


Despite the immense challenges they faced, the mothers in this study also demonstrated remarkable resilience. The research identified several key coping strategies that helped them navigate the pandemic:

  • The Power of Social Support: Maintaining connections with friends and family, even virtually, proved to be a critical source of emotional support for the mothers. Sharing experiences, offering advice, and simply having someone to talk to helped them feel less alone.
  • Re-Establishing Routine: Mothers recognized the importance of establishing new routines within the constraints of the lockdown. Creating predictable schedules for meals, activities, and playtime helped to reduce anxiety for both themselves and their children.
  • Prioritizing Self-Care: While prioritizing their children’s needs, the mothers also recognized the importance of taking care of themselves. Engaging in activities they enjoyed, such as meditation, exercise, or hobbies, helped them manage stress and maintain their well-being.
  • Embracing Online Resources: Many mothers reported utilizing online resources and support groups specifically for parents of children with ASD and ADHD. These online communities provided valuable information, coping strategies, and a sense of belonging.

These coping mechanisms became lifelines for the mothers, enabling them to navigate the challenging circumstances.

The Importance of Understanding and Support


The findings of this study highlight the critical need for healthcare professionals and support services to be aware of the unique challenges faced by mothers of children with ASD and ADHD during a pandemic or any other disruptive event. Recognizing the specific stressors they experience allows for the development of targeted interventions and support systems.

The research also underscores the importance of readily available online resources and strong social support networks. Further studies could explore the long-term impact of the pandemic on these families and identify additional support strategies that can benefit mothers in similar situations.

By understanding the experiences of these mothers and the coping mechanisms they employed, we can better support them in navigating future challenges and ensure the well-being of both themselves and their children.



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