How To Help Your Exceptional Child Build Life Resilience- It All Starts With You!

So this morning was one of those mornings with Michael that did not go as planned to say the least. It ended with a fight right before the bus came, no time for apologies on either end, and me sitting down to collect my harried  stressed out thoughts, and accidentally knocking over my traditional full “sigh of successful morning routine done” second cup of coffee  on to the floor with coffee and cherished cup coffee shattering everywhere. The irony was not lost on me as I selected that particular mug from the cabinet earlier that morning for its reminder to stay positive. The mug had been inscribed with “Worry Less, Smile More.” I have the whole series from a local Dollarstore and love them for their uplifting messages to me as I start my morning . What can I say? Some people have “Word of the Day” Calendars, I have coffee mugs, but I digress.

Anyway, as I sat there fuming at my son and myself for how poorly we handled our emotions, how strategies at self-control were not practiced, and how I wished I could crawl into bed with a good book and stay there, I thought of one word.   Resilience. Resilience means learning to stand strong in the face of defeat or stress or unexpected developments. It means not being afraid to get back up on the horse no matter how frustrated, angry or tired we are. I also thought that resilience is what makes or breaks all of us, child or adult, exceptional or not, and what helps us succeed in this world. I’ll never forget the words a teacher of Michael’s once told me.

“Joanne, forget academics. If he has the basics down pat, that’s all that matters. What is most important are life smarts.”

She went on to tell me that he had many life smarts, and she saw more emerging. However like Dad and I, she was worried about how he handled things like anger and frustration. Her exact words were,

“He’ll be fine as long as he doesn’t bring home that anger and frustration without knowing how to cope with it.”

She knew about his struggles at home with Dad and I, and she rightfully was concerned, as were we, about him bringing that anger home as an adult to a roommate, partner or in a group home facility, wherever he would one day reside. We knew we had to act and began working on teaching Michael resiliency along with his home team. At school he also has an amazing team that works with him. Team Michael is incredibly supportive on both fronts, and when I think I cannot do this Exceptional Mom thing anymore, I remember, I have my people.

So, this got me thinking about teaching Michael resilience in the face of things going wrong or being stressful.  How could I do that? Of course I’ve read (and been recommended) lots of great parenting books. I’ve talked to my Mom friends who are also invaluable resources. But what really stands out for me lately, is how am I showing personal resilience in my life when things don’t go my way? It depends on the day. Some days are easier than others. Days I’ve invested in more self-care and time alone to regroup have obviously made me more resilient than days I have been burning my candle at both ends. Still, resilience is a work in progress and something we always need to work on . So how can we help our child be more resilient to life’s obstacles? Here are some ways I’ve found have worked:

  1. Challenge Them With Unexpected Changes Once In A While: It’s important they learn to expect the unexpected as life is not always predictable. Just to make sure they are not completely overwhelmed though, have a predictable routine the rest of the time.
  2. Teach Them How To Use Strategies To Control Hard Emotions: Give your child options of how to calm down-deep breathing, yoga positions, fidget toys, sensory tools and for older children, a social story or visuals to help them figure out what to do.
  3. Share Your Successes and Failures With Your Child: Share your resilient and not so resilient moments with your child. Help them see what worked and what didn’t.
  4. Help Them Let Out Hard Emotions Safely: It is equally important to know when it is ok to let out hard emotions and when is the time to wait to do this. Regardless, emotions and admitting we are angry, scared or frustrated should never be pushed down, but handled in a calm, controlled way.
  5. Help Them See When Others Are Struggling and Buddy Up: It is also good if you could help your child see when family or friends are struggling and how they could remind these people to use strategies to calm down and regroup. This way your child will not feel alone.

Exceptional Parents, what are some of your resilience tricks to stay grounded? Remember, there is no wrong or right answer. The important thing is that your child learns that they are not at the mercy of their emotions, but can exhibit control with the right strategies. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with Autism, ADHD, OCD  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,


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