A few years ago when I decided to blog and offer parent coaching and speaking services as well, I remember the doubt that filled me. What did I know about some of the more challenging issues that special needs parents face such as extreme anxiety, aggression and struggling with puberty? My son was young, not near puberty, and not being challenged academically yet. I knew the gist of all of these things of course, from books, friends who had experienced it, and professional training, but there is nothing parents, nothing that quite prepares you for helping a severely challenged child and family until you are in the midst of helping that child and family. The last two years with Michael have a been a roller coaster ride of challenging behaviors. Michael has struggled as much as Dad and I. We have used what we knew as parents and caregivers, and learned much along the way from other professionals. In the midst of another frustrating morning the other day, I could not help but think back to when I worried how helpful I could be to parents whose children were aggressive, confrontational and challenged when my son had not gotten quite to that point. Problem solved now. As I have learned (and continue to learn) how to help Michael navigate his fears, anger and challenges it is shaping me as a human being time.
What I try to remember after the storm has passed, is that when our children are challenging us, is when they need us to be the strongest. This is hard even on the best of days, but is true nonetheless. They will push all your buttons as no one knows you better, but it is important that you do your best to hold it together. If you can’t, cry defeat after. I had a night with my son the other day like that and after we’d both calmed down and made up, I came clean and admitted that I had lost my cool and did not use my strategies. It made it easier for him to do the same, and modeled how even adults make mistakes. It also reminded me how our children are there to help us as much as we are there to help them. They are trying to help us become stronger, more compassionate and caring, both towards ourselves and other human beings who are different. This is not an easy thing to learn, but as long as we see our failures as bringing us closer to spiritual growing and admit as much to our children, we will continue to grow as they will.
Shame is what fills me on those moments I have lost it as a parent. Why couldn’t I hold it together better? Why did I let my anger and fear take over? Then, that calm inner voice we all have answered me back: because you are human Joanne. You are human and you make mistakes. It is ok. Tomorrow is a chance to start again. Believe, pray, meditate and do. That is what I teach Michael. There are consequences for negative actions, but he always has a chance to start again. I allow myself that same option, and tell parents that too. Parenting is hard. Parenting an exceptional child is exceptionally hard, for parents and the child. Be patient. Stay strong. Stay positive. Get support and time away on your own to regroup. You’ll be more patient when it comes time to handle those outbursts when they happen.
Exceptional Parents, what battles have you learned not to pick with your Exceptional Children? What do you buckle down on and what do you let go of? Remember, there is no hard and fast rule of what works best for EVERY child. Make sure you go with your child’s flow and adjust your expectations to what you feel they can handle. Be firm and consistent in most things, but remember to allow some flexibility in how you handle stressful situations so your child feels secure and sees that you love them but means business. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker, and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.