Month: June 2017

Exceptional Emotional Roller Coasters and How NOT To Ride Your Child’s

 

Roller Coaster Ride

Yesterday afternoon was one I would call a mixed bag. It started out with Michael a little on the hyper side. He was very excited to call a friend before we were destined to run out to buy something for him not urgent, but something that we had discussed may help him. Due I think to his excitement in recounting his day at snack time (took a long time) combined with rushing to make the store, he had difficulty dialing his friend’s number. He did not want to ask for help feeling this would make him seem a baby. As I tried to calmly intervene, I quickly got carried away with his stress and become stressed myself to try and finish the chore I had started while he made his phone call, so we could get out the door and home in time for dinner. In the midst of him actually having what looked like an anxiety attack and him fighting me to help him dial, I realized, I was riding my child’s emotional roller coaster. Right away, I took a deep breath, told Michael I needed a moment to calm down myself, and then we would make the call together. It worked out in the end, but then afterwards it was too late to go to the store. Michael was very distraught and started to cry. He asked me to hug him. He tried using his strategy cards, but they did not do the full job. He eventually calmed down, and I realized what we had both done wrong. Number 1, he had changed the schedule. We have been using a regular schedule to keep anxiety at bay. I needed to make it clear that we keep the schedule as we decided. Number 2, as soon as he started escalating direct him to his calm cards and cool down corner. I waited and it served to make him more stressed. Number 3, see what he was really communicating- tiredness, excitement/nervousness about school ending, and monitor him that much more closely. But above all, be the calm in my child’s storm. Sometimes as parents we forget that.

We had a pretty intense conversation afterwards about planning things out, and then Michael being Michael, wanted to have a heart to heart about God, Heaven, Life and Death and about why people die. I suspect he was grateful that I had hugged and reassured him he was not a baby for needing help and that we all get upset and lose our temper sometimes, including Moms and Dads. It was quite an hour long conversation we had before dinner. The rest of the night went very well. So how do you NOT ride your child’s emotional roller coaster. These are the things I’ll remember the next time my child starts to get stressed:

  1. Stay  Calm: I know, obvious right? But it is hard at first to see how we are building with them, particularly if you have a close bond with your child. So first be aware of your own breathing, thoughts and body. Take a deep breath and remind yourself to stay calm either with a mantra: “I am peace.” You can also ask for help from God if you are religious, “Lord, give me patience.” You can use humor if you’ve already started getting upset, “Don’t have a Mommy tantrum.” It’s basically whatever works best for you to stay calm
  2. See The Roller Coaster Is Not Your Child: Make sure you are seeing how your child is caught in his/her emotions and it is NOT them. Sometimes as parents we see our kids misbehaving and screaming and don’t see that they have lost control and need our help to find their center. Step back so you can help.
  3. Set Boundaries For Behavior: This is one we all have challenges with. It’s important your child knows you are in charge for their safety and peace of mind. Kids push against loose boundaries as much as tight ones. Be firm and loving but remind your child you make the rules and they need to follow them.
  4. Make Sure You Are In Touch  With Your Triggers: Our children will learn our triggers and use them, each  and every time. It’s almost funny how they know what sets us off. Don’t let yourself be triggered, and if it does happen, step away and go somewhere quiet to collect yourself. You can’t do a good job as a parent until then.
  5. Establish Good  Health Habits for The Whole Family To Communicate: Have a cool down corner for each member of the family where they can go to unwind, de-stress and calm down. Model doing that for your child. Also, talk about feelings in simple terms. Don’t talk too much. Keep the concepts simple. Too much talking causes more anxiety in exceptional kids. I know that personally. 🙂

 

Exceptional Parents, when was the last time you rode your child’s roller coaster of emotions and what do you use to not escalate yourself? Remember, as long  as your tools include staying calm and present focused you and your child will be fine. We can all learn from our mistakes and grow and become stronger people from our trials. You are a great parent and your child loves you as you love them. Until next time.

Exceptional Conversations And How To Be Available To Your Child

boy, children, cute

Well this weekend was our first very good weekend in a long time. Michael is adjusting slowly to the new rules around the house, his home schedule, and the challenging behaviors are slowly going down. He is learning to use his strategies to calm down with us reminding him most of the time, but there were a few times in the last week he used them without prompting. All of this has made me really enjoy the weekend again for the first time in a long time. And I have seen the difference in Michael. He is also more relaxed with the structure we have put in and interestingly more talkative and affectionate. Sunday morning over breakfast he was asking me questions about God, faith, and his grandparents. We had a pleasurable conversation and it was so relaxing. I thought at one time, wow. It’s a regular Sunday morning. Something we have not had in awhile. Later in the day we had the same kind of conversation over dinner outside on the patio. Throughout the day Michael would ask me for my time, would ask to talk or read to him, and would tell me he appreciates me. Though the weekend was a little tougher with Dad, he also had plenty of positive moments with his father too where he called his Dad amazing and said how much he appreciated him.

What were we doing right now that we hadn’t been? That was when I realized it. We had a structure and a schedule at home again, something Michael has always needed. It shows him what is coming next. We also have now implemented very clear guidelines of behavior on what he needs to do, act, and what is expected of him. He likes having this security and seems in general more relaxed. He said over the weekend that he feels good that he is listening and explained that it is hard hearing no. He wants to make more decisions. So I spoke to him about where he has control, and where he still has to relinquish some of it due to his age. I told him funny stories of when his uncle and I were kids and how we didn’t always like listening, but knew we had to. He loves hearing those. They are family stories and show him that he is not alone. I think we all need that. And I was relaxed and calm. Finally. I was trusting my parenting again, something I had not for awhile. I grew in these turbulent times too.

I was even blown away to see him also decide he would make an original craft today to keep busy. He is learning to find things to do and structure his time though this is still the challenge. With lots of summer energy with the heat wave that hit us today, this morning early we went for a walk in our neighborhood. We had more interesting talks, some disagreements and he shared some interesting facts like how walking in noisy places calms his mind. For me it’s the opposite. I love how Michael is slowly emerging from the anger and defiance that was characterizing his behavior over the last six months off and on. My little boy and all his talents are visible to me again, and I can continue to see the beauty behind the struggle, his and mine.

Exceptional Parents, what do your challenging times with your child teach you? Yes, there are the bitter moments when you are angry and may indulge in self-pity and regrets. But looking back, it forces you to be stronger as it does your child. True growth often happens only after great struggles. When you are in the moment it often seems hopeless, but don’t despair. Your rainbow weekend or weekday with your child is coming. Put in the hard work, the consistency and it will pay off for both of you. Then you and your child can grow together. Until next time.

I am a writer and parent coach whose passion it is to help other exceptional parents find joy, peace and love in parenting their exceptional children through the various challenges they face. I believe that a happy child can only develop if their parents are living their lives happy, whole and in balance. For more information on my coaching programs, please see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. To book a free 30 minute exploration/consultation Skype session with me, please contact me by email at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

Feeling stressed, worried and looking for new strategies to handle your family’s anxiety? Request your copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” at http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/ebooks.

 

Seeing Your Exceptional Child For Who They Are

carefree, child, childhood

Yesterday afternoon I was happy to have another parent teacher meeting at Michael’s school where I heard, as I usually do, how well Michael is progressing at school academically and socially. This year, especially in the wake of our problems at home, it was especially appreciated as it made me see something that as a parent I have taken for granted with Michael in the past, seeing him as he truly is. This is not to say that sometimes he doesn’t push against boundaries and struggle with his feelings and actions at home. Of course he does. But rather that who he is at home is not the whole picture. Consequently, who he is at school is not the whole picture. He is a little bit of both. He has issues controlling his emotions more in one setting than another, but for better or worse, Michael has his strong and weak points like all of us do.

When as a parent you are used to seeing challenges pretty much consecutively on one front from your child, even against your own self, you will start to become discouraged and think, this behavior is who my child is. It is important to distinguish who your child is from what they do, even and especially in those moments of challenges when it is hard to love them. You do love them, but you need to draw on every morsel of strength to get through and on to bigger and better things. Yesterday was my challenge to see my amazing little guy for who he was. After a tough morning and some testing last night that could have turned into a meltdown, I had something unexpected happen when I told Michael  to use his tools to cool down and then we would sit and figure things out together.  After he did that, he asked to sit on my lap. I was shocked. This hasn’t happened in a long time. He wanted to sit on my lap and hug. He needed that confirmation that all was ok.  I was not getting angry because I did not love him, but because he needed to follow rules to regulate and show respect to Dad and I. I’ve seen him increasingly applying the tools he is learning more and more. I’m seeing the little boy I always say is trapped under the behavior when we have tough times like we have the last few months. It reminds me what I and every parent is really fighting for; how to see our child for who they really are, not lose hope, and show them that with faith and belief, they can get through anything.

Exceptional Parents, are you going through a particularly rough patch with your Exceptional Child right now? Are you and they experiencing aggression, challenging behavior and anxiety? Remember, that the first thing you can do after taking care of yourself so you are at your best to help your child, is to remind yourself, and them, that the behavivor is not who they really are inside. It is something they are struggling with. Get them, (and yourself) the support you need at home. Get your team mobilized. Work with their school. Work with family and friends for support. It truly takes a village to raise a child. To raise an exceptional child, it takes an exceptional village. Good luck, and remember, know you are never alone in your parenting struggles. Until next time.

I am a writer and parent coach who helps exceptional parents find their own balance in handling the challenges in their exceptional families while living that balance in my own journey. For more information on my coaching packages and to book a free consultation session with me, please see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Contact me at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

 

Exceptional End of School Year Battles and What NOT To Do

Girl Sleeping With Her Brown Plush Toy

So this morning it did not go so well at my house. By not going so well I mean, me wanting to tear my hair out piece by piece to get my son to a) actually get out of bed during one of the four times we called him b) to actually move quickly when he is over thirty minutes late and making Dad late too, and c) stop telling him I don’t care how tired he is, because so am I. The problem with all of the above? They feel good for a nanosecond, then you are stressed out as the parent, the fighting stalls things, and no one wins. Now normally things go pretty well in the mornings. We have a great new system that really works and Michael is usually so cooperative. The problem is last night I went. Michael was worried. He fell asleep late and was already tired this week. I kind of saw it coming but hoped he could hold off for one more day. Tomorrow is a PED DAY for him, thank God.  There were good reason for what happened, but it is still not a good thing for either parent or child to go through. So what’s a parent to do to handle things more calmly in these circumstances? Here’s what NOT To Do:

  1. Do Not Yell Your Head Off: This only makes our kids more stressed. Sigh. This is hard for ALL kids, but it sets offf behaviors in our exceptional ones. Mine included. Count down to ten, do some positive visualization. Whatever. Before not after the fight.
  2. Have A Logical Consequence Ready-No Long Term Threats: Threatening the child with no AV or treat after school for the morning stress does no good. It just frustrates them and you more and makes life hard for everyone.
  3.  Telling the Child You Don’t Care That They Are Tired: Guilty as charged. I was so angry, I yelled this out in a moment of anger, but then I regretted it. I later told Michael we are all tired, but need to make better choices.
  4. Visualizing  This As Happening Every Day And Getting Discouraged: Don’t do this. Look at your morning routine, tweak it, and see what can go better and what can be changed.
  5. Forgive Yourself: Some mornings will be rough. Learn from them. You are only human as is your child. Always tell your child that tomorrow is another day to start over and begin again.

Exceptional Parents, what has and has not worked for you in your morning routine? Remember, our kids have a hard time with sequencing. That is why a good morning routine is essential. Even with that though, sometimes things will fail. Don’t worry. Look at what can be learned, laugh at yourself, and be flexible in making some change for the future. Until next time.

 

Boundaries and Flexibility-How To Strike The Balance With Your Exceptional Child

 

Michael is entering into that tween stage now. It is ackward for him as it is for all kids as he struggles to find where he can be independent and where he needs to learn to ask for help. Combine that with catching up on earlier developmental milestones from toddlerhood and preschool, and as the saying goes in the special needs community, some days you are raising your child at their chronological age, other days it is at a much younger age. And still on other days, they jump between ages. As I’ve said many times in this blog and to friends in person, life is not boring at our house.

Still this tween stage and everything that is accompanying it, has got me thinking about what tools are working for us and Michael now to meet in the middle somewhere, where he feels empowered yet has the necessary boundaries to feel calm, listen and handle anxiety and aggression. Here are some of the basic ones:

  1. Schedules: I both love and dread these, but creating a day and evening schedule for our family where it is written what everyone is doing at certain times, has been a life saver. At first Michael protested thinking it made him a baby, but we (along with other adults around us), showed him how we all need schedules to get organized.
  2. Allow Child Choice in Activities To Put Into The Day: There are no more chances as at this age Michael knows better, but allowing him input into creating schedules and other daily activities has made a difference.
  3. Consistency in how both parents respond: This has been the hardest to do and we have made mistakes, but Dad and I are learning to support one another no matter what and be consistent in how we discipline and approach problems with Michael.
  4. Praise and positive attention: Again, we all point out what our kids are doing wrong, but praising when they do things right is harder for us to remember. We are doing more of this too and catching the good moments.
  5. Asking  child what they need-space or a hug: Sometimes kids may not know, but usually they will give signs if they need Mom or Dad close or Mom or Dad to give them space. Be receptive and flexible. Go with their flow. The professionals you work with that know you and your family will want to work with your family’s flow. Otherwise, keep looking for a better fit for your family.

 

Exceptional Parents, what has worked for you and your child? What is the balance your family has found to have peace in your home? Remember, it’s not one size fits all. Go with a system that is consistent, shows love and respect towards all, and remember, your child loves you even in their most difficult moments as you do them. Until next time.

 

Laughter and Learning To Reassess and Move On For You And Your Child

Navigating our way through Michael’s increasing aggression has not been easy to say the least. We have three or four days of good behavior and feel we have turned a corner as a family, only to have a very bad day that paralyzes us and makes us feel we are back to square A. Of course, the after effects die off and then we start over again fresh the next day. It is not always easy, but I am trying to remember to practice what I preach to Michael- it’s finished, we take a deep breath, and move on. Things will get better if you trust, believe and think positively.

Laughter with work colleagues, my spouse and I hope soon with friends who I am LONG overdue at seeing, will follow. Most nights after coming home from work, handling phone calls and/or registration for Michael’s various activities, handling Michael coming home, the good and the bad, dinner, dishes, bedtime, when the house is quiet if I’m lucky I have a lot of energy left. Like most Moms, I am trying though to remember things I am proud of: Michael’s increasing independence, Michael’s social skills and the way he is now planning play dates, and the way he is understanding about earning money doing chores to buy things. Mostly though, I am learning how important it is to laugh at the funny things he says and does. It helps me remember the special boy that is still there trapped under the behaviors and frustrations and escalating anger. It helps me remember that I love the whole child, and to remember with time he will get better as will we as his parents at handling his escalating moods and helping him regulate them.

Exceptional Parents, what do you laugh about in your parenting journey? Remember, you are not laughing at your child, but laughing at the funny things they do when things are going well. It helps you to remember the rainbow after the storm, that with time and effort things will get better, and that your child, sensing your calm, will gravitate to that calm themselves. Until next time.

How To Handle End of School Year Anxiety- Yours and Your Child’s

Over the years end of school anxiety has gotten better. I am lucky that Michael understands what is happening, what he has control over and what he does not. He will always be a kid who worries about which class he is, which teacher he will get, and yes, he will worry about summer camp, even if he is returning to the same one from the previous year. This is not the case this year, but it is all good. Still though, even with this advantage, it is still difficult. Combine that with hot weather usually, and as a parent you have a child who is wired, stressed and hyper. The only good thing about the cool rainy weather is that Michael and I don’t have to contend with that element this year, but the other ones are in place. So what’s a parent and child to do to handle this time of the year gracefully without too many screaming fests? Here are some tips I have picked up over the years:

  1. Make a schedule of the summer ahead of time: Yep, once again write it all down, print it on computer, put it on a tablet or draw/laminate it. You know what works best for your child. And even if they fight you on it, (been there, done that, am currently renegotiating that) say it is for you as well an do it. This removes A LOT of the stress.
  2. Look at the positives: Help your child see the positives at this time of the year: playing outside when weather is nice, field trips, end of school parties/bbq’s etc.
  3. Have a reward system set up: This is good if there are lots of behaviors. If they have something positive to earn by end of the day, it will change their mindset.
  4. Talk or don’t talk: Some kids feel better talking about their stress. For others, this only feeds it. Find out where your child fits on this continuum and do the one that will put their fears at ease. Set aside a time each day to talk without interruption. For those that get overstimulated and anxious with too much talking, set a time limit and boundaries. We will decide that on this day. I will give you an answer etc.
  5. Lots of physical activity and movement: Have them move around a lot doing sports, going to a park, jumping on a trampoline. This will let them handle a lot of the anxiety that comes with pent up energy.

Exceptional Parents, what are some of your words of wisdom for dealing with your child’s end of year anxiety? Remember, for everyone the techniques may be slightly different and need to be tailored to your unique child. Also, don’t despair if they do not work right away. Any new system (behavior or reward) takes time to take effect and for the house to get used to doing things a certain way. Have patience, take care of you, give your child a chance to adjust and together you can both face the summer with optimism. Until next time.

How To Maintain Your Courage In Times Of Exceptional Family Upheaval

Not again, I thought to myself as Michael lost control and broke yet something else. These were the same words that went through my head over the course of the last few weeks  when I was hit, sweared at, insulted and had to physically hold the door so my child would stay in his “cool down” room in order to teach him there are rules to follow and a safe place to go to calm down. It’s hard. As things have started improving with Michael listening to his Dad and I, he has also been understandably rebelling against the more strict consistent rules we have been putting in. When he has been angry he has repeatedly said, “I want you to go back to being the same Mommy and Daddy as before that gave chances when I didn’t listen.” We have reminded him that he is capable of listening without chances as he is old enough to know right from wrong. This is why we have made these changes, as somewhere along the way Michael has forgotten about our authority as his parents.

I have also learned as hard as it is to get through this latest stage with Michael, that I am strong, capable and that Michael needs me to guide him in making some hard decisions, which means listening even when he does not like what he hears. It also means consistency in how Dad and I handle Michael’s aggression and testing, and our own reactions to it. Considering the stress we have all been under, I think everyone has been doing great. Michael is still excelling at school (thank God), and Dad and I are doing our best to take time for ourselves. How are with doing this, you may ask? We are doing what feels good for us. Sometimes it is personal quiet time. Sometimes it is workout time. Sometimes it is sleeping in a little on the weekends (that one is hard), and sometimes it is by just taking some time ask for space, going out with friends, and curling up with a good book and movie. Whatever Exceptional Parents do, it has to be something that makes them feel calm, collected and balanced. They will need to be strong for what lies ahead to help their Exceptional Child.

Exceptional Parents, what do you do to keep your sanity and remember to laugh? Yes, there are still moments when we can laugh with our children. I have those when Michael navigates to a new place, shows me an award he earned at school or I hear him reading perfectly. Hold on to the positive. Take a deep breath through the negative. And know that you are growing as strong as you child is, riding out the storms with them. Until next time.