Reading My Exceptional Child’s Cues of Stress By First Being In Touch With My Own

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It’s really true what they say. We can’t know anyone else until we know ourselves. And this goes double for parenting. Until a parent learns how to be patient with their own shortcomings, stresses and anxieties, they will have a hard time reading these cues in their child. This will backfire. They will respond badly or ignore their child’s cries for help, unintentionally of course, and a fight, verbal or otherwise, will break out. Of all the things Michael has taught me, and continues to teach me, understanding myself deep down inside is the one theme that keeps emerging and one of the reasons I fail to see when things are falling apart with him are when I first fail to see them falling apart in me. Now, this is not parental blame. I am not at fault for how Michael feels or his way of handling stress. It took me a long time to learn that even with some great Exceptional Mom friends and my own mother reminding me of as much all the time. It just means that when I am not clear on me, I can’t be clear on what he is going through. When I am clear though, it is amazing what happens.

Like yesterday I picked him up at summer camp. I could see right away just be the look on his face and his body language towards me that it would be difficult afternoon and evening. It was a combination of a lot of things, but I just picked up the anxiety vibe you could say. I rode it for a few seconds, then I very deliberately told myself- No Joanne. Don’t react to the drama. Don’t escalate it with your own reaction. Stay calm. Stay centered. Be the safe haven he needs to scream, cry, and rage. And I was. And the evening turned out to a nice one. A big tantrum was dissolved into sadness where Michael had a cry in the backseat of the car and then we talked about why sometimes we feel sad and it is hard to get happy. I thought of all the wonderful professionals we have worked with over the last school year, and particularly in the last three months when things escalated in our home. I silently thanked God for them, their wisdom, and their wonderful advice about talking less, staying calm, organizing more, and then remaining and standing strong in myself as a parent so that Michael can benefit from that strength. The result is a less anxious child, most of the time, a child who tests the limits but sees where consequences will be, and even when he pushes past them, apologizes. Most important of all, I see being in touch with my negative patterns- talking too much, not being consistent with Michael, fearing his meltdowns and how I would handle them and me, were a huge part of the problem. Not the whole problem,  but the things I could control I was not controlling. I could and needed to control me, my reaction to stress, to testing. And I also needed to see that, by trying to give Michael more choice and control, I had inadvertently given up my parental control, and as one psychologist told us, he was running the household. I was embarrassed, but not shocked at all to hear the words. I was grateful that a professional had the courage to gently steer me towards asserting my parental control and Dad his again. It’s been a long road back these past several months, but we are getting there. Interestingly, Michael has never been closer, more respectful and easier to talk to since rules, and our parental authority has been reinstated. Mainly though, I know it is both Dad and I feeling more confident in our ability to structure and remember we are the ones in charge at home, as well as handle our own inner demons better and honestly.

Exceptional Parents, how good are you at knowing how you feel deep down inside? Do you acknowledge when you are less likely to be patient and calm? It’s ok if there are moments when dealing with your child’s stress truly break you. You are human. Take a breather. Calm yourself. Then do some soul searching and find out how to get grounded in yourself again. Once you do, you’ll be  surprised how you will not only ride your own storms better, but do the same for your child’s storms. Most importantly, you will model for them a way to talk to themselves when they are upset. Until next time.


I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with autism has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of the moment! I believe in empowering parents to trust their own instincts when it comes to their children, and in helping them parent with love, respect and confidence towards their child.

For more information on my coaching services, see my website:, and for a free 30 minute exploration/consultation session contact me at Also to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” click on

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