Tonight I experienced a beautiful Mom moment. Michael, who has been engaging in normal growing up rebellion coupled with his exceptional issues, actually said out loud;
“Mom, I want to spend time with you.”
Wow! I almost asked him to repeat it, but then realized, no, I heard him right. He actually said he likes to go to stores with me and when I take him in the car to his activities during the week and weekend. He looks forward to our weekly store run which happens most Friday nights, sometimes Thursdays. He will navigate in the car with me experimenting with different ways we can take home, though he has his favorites. He asks me to blast the radio when it is his favorite song, though when we talk in the car I lower the music of course, so we can hear each other. I love this. It brings me back to my youth when I was driving in the car with my Dad. That is where we had our best conversations. With my Mom, they happened after school at snack time and family conversations happened at the dinner table. But back to Michael and I. I love that he listens to the same dance countdown that I did as a tween and teen on the same station. I love the music he is listening to, and we both rock in our different ways to the beat. 😉 We are falling into a new routine together, still close, yet with different expectations from one another. He is growing up and needs more space alone and time with friends, but still craves conversation and being together in the same area. It is really sweet. Then when he’s had enough I’ll get the tween eye rolls. That’s ok. I have the equivalent adult eye rolls when I need my space. Dad knows this about me as a partner too. I love my family and friends, but there are some moments when I need to be alone, and if I don’t get my alone time I become cranky and irritable.
So this whole kid still wanting to spend time with me thing has got me thinking about the importance of continuing to maintain a close relationship with your Exceptional Child, even as they grow and their interests and attention span changes. What things can you do to continue to keep the doors of communication open, especially as every age brings with it extra challenges for your child? Here are some things that have worked for our family:
1) Let your child know you are there for them: This does not mean insisting they talk to you every day, but in direct and not so direct ways, let your child know you are available to listen to them if they are stressed or will celebrate with them if they experience a victory. I have a certain time of the day set aside where Michael knows I am there for him, and we have mother/son rituals like our spring and summer walks.
2) Be excited when you are with your child: Even if you are tired or stressed yourself, make sure your child knows that whatever time you spend together with them is a happy time. It’s all about quality not quantity.
3) Create opportunities to talk: Always create opportunities in pockets of time in the day for your child to communicate with you. If after school over a snack works, talk then. If driving them to an activity makes it easier to talk, use that as a starting point. Sometimes at dinner or over a tv show works too.
4) Plan out activities away from technology: If you are out at a park playing a sport together, walking, biking, swimming. All of these sports create different opportunities to bond. Sometimes reading side by side can be a good way for exceptional kids who like books, to bond.
5) Have family only time, alone time, and friend time divided up in the day: Make sure that your child knows that balance is important and that time with family, time alone and time with friends is equally important for everyone. Respect those boundaries for them and teach them to respect them for you too.
Exceptional Parents, do you feel as if your child is growing closer or further away from you? Both are normal events and they happen in all families. The only thing is that with Exceptional Children they are usually more intense either way. If you and your child are drifting apart, take some time to look at what is not working and open up the communication in a different way. If you are becoming closer, look at what is working and make sure to keep that momentum going. You want to repeat the positive experience, and if it falters, know what needs to be adjusted. It is also totally normal for your child to rebel, grow away from you, and struggle. Let them experience all their feelings good and bad. This will help them grow. As long as they know you are there to catch them if they fall and are always in their corner, you are on the right track. Until next time.
Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive!