I am so happy to write these words on screen. Michael is really, really connecting how to self-regulate with his new body. I say new body, as he had reached this point prior to his Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis and puberty, but then it seemed he had to start learning all over again what made him calm down. As he got older, he also developed new fears and anxieties, social ones, self-esteem ones, and worries about his future.
My little boy that talked about a job, getting married and moving into his own home, all of a sudden started regressing. He talked about living with Dad and I. Being afraid to be alone. Being afraid of his thoughts. He still has some of these fears, but he is recognizing how to handle them. He is learning new strategies (and using some old ones), to calm down when he gets angry, anxious and stressed. I am so proud that he has started in the last two weeks connecting his thoughts to his actions. He has started seeing his patterns of thinking. Sometimes he understands where his anxious thoughts come from. Sometimes he does not. Regardless, his new combination of behavior therapy, medication, and old sensory strategies, as well as our new parenting techniques, seem to be doing the trick in helping Michael trust us again, trust himself, and build up confidence in the world again. It is beautiful to see. Now for Dad and I, it is about encouraging him to continue to make strides. We are seeing what works and what doesn’t. Every child is different, but here are some ways to tell that your child is starting to self-regulate and needs continued encouragement to stay on this path:
- Your child stops and thinks more before he/she acts: This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is hard for Exceptional Kids to do this. Even if they stop a fraction of a second before saying or doing something aggressive or stressful, or realize it a second later and apologize, wow. This is a step in the right direction.
- Your child automatically does the techniques or goes to the area to regulate: A child who is calmed by breathing may start doing deep breathing on their own when anxious or upset. A child who needs movement will seek out a trampoline, swing or jumping in place. One who needs deep pressure will squeeze stuff or ask for a hug or massage.
- Your child asks for your help in this area: Sometimes they will not know what to do. If they ask for help in any way, verbally or by pulling you to hold or hug them, you’ve made progress in reaching them.
- Your child will want to be with you more: We had a period of time when Michael’s peers mattered more than us in ALL things. I know it is normal that peers become more important during the tween/teen years, but he had a hard time trusting us and feeling secure. Therapy, seeing the effort we were making to spend quality time with him and let him talk without jumping in, made all the difference. Kids will seek the adult’s opinion if they feel validated and respected by said adult first.
- Your child will recognize others who don’t self-regulate more and possibly want to help: Michael will now recognize when friends have a hard time self-regulating and will comment to me and his teacher, that their behavior is not appropriate. Sometimes he will even try and help them learn from it. I consider this massive progress.
Exceptional Parents, does your Exceptional Child have a hard time self-regulating or have they found the perfect formula? If so, praise them (and yourselves), for having worked so hard to help them learn how to manage their emotions. This is no easy feat for any child, but remember, Exceptional Kids’ brains are wired to handle stress in a more complex way. Keep looking for what works for your child, and never ever give up that they will learn from what didn’t work, as you do too. 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.