So it’s another late afternoon at my home and Michael is angry about something small that I said that sounds like it is a criticism of him, his way of doing things, or simply a “less try things differently” approach. I am getting better at going with the flow with Michael’s mood swings. There is the I like you Mom, I don’t mind being in the same room as you Mom. This lasts about ten minutes a day, to you’re ok, but don’t try and hug or touch me, give me a high five if you’re proud of me, to get away from me and trying to control my life as you want me to stop watching my videos now! Yep. And because he’s exceptional, the rebellion is quite over the top. A book gets tossed across the room, a swear word (or words) are uttered, and repeatedly Michael will say things like I want to be with my friends, stop being critical or the eye rolling. I almost laugh at that one. Yep. It’s all normal, relatively speaking.
So, back to the tween mood swings and how I survive them? They are quite similar to what my mother and father used back in the day, only tweaked for exceptional kids. Here they are:
1) Make sure to keep your sense of humor: I know. Your exceptional tween is having the meltdown of a century, how do you laugh or even begin to? Well, you may not laugh during or right after it, but later on you remember the tumultuous hormones that is puberty. You remember how confused you were as a neuro typical youngster, imagine your child. You also say that this is just a phase. Sooner or later they will outgrow it like they did toddler and preschool behavior. And then you pour yourself a cup of coffee or wine (depending on the time of day), and say to yourself, “this too shall pass.”
2) Put yourself in their shoes: This is similar to number 1, but also a little different. Remember not feeling like you knew who you were? Remember, feeling so alone and frustrated and hormonal? Well, your exceptional child has this and their different brain affecting their outlook on the world. In Michael’s case, ASD, ADHD, and Type 1 Diabetes. In your child’s case, whatever challenges they face. Be patient. Give them opportunities to try again. Don’t enable them or have them use their neuro diversity and challenges as an excuse, but make sure they know they can learn and grow from their behavioral mistakes.
3) Give them space to physically and mentally vent: This is a work in progress as their interests change, but it is important for all kids to have a space in the house to let loose. Physically vent means they can have places to scream, punch a pillow, jump on a trampoline, cry, or do whatever they need to do to release pent up emotions. Mentally vent, make sure they have a journal or place to draw or sketch how they feel. Make sure when they and you are calm, the two of you can sit down and talk together about what happened. It’s important you both learn from your mistakes.
4) They are communicating! Yes!: Again, a day ago when my tween was angry and yelling at me I would not have been enthusiastically preaching this, but afterwards when he calmed down and regrouped, I realized that a meltdown, an outburst, or any display of emotion means that they are authentically communicating their needs to you and you know what they need to work on (and you too). Celebrate this and move forward with your team. Your child is telling you how they feel!
5) Self-Care: I’ve said this time and time again and will continue to do so, but only when parents are taking care of their needs (physical, mental, spiritual), can they parent from their soul and see the child as a whole. If you are tired, frustrated, depleted, you will not be strong enough to help your child through any crises. Self-care does not have to be fancy. Taking time to curl up and watch a favorite tv show, read a good book, spend time with your partner and friends, take a bath or a walk and exercise, are all important to overall mental well-being. I can’t emphasize enough how much guided meditations help too. For me, they saved my life and showed me how to remain in the moment with Michael. When I have forgotten, I would immediately think about breathing and refocusing my energy. I also would ask myself, when was the last time I had “me” time?
Exceptional Parents, how do you survive the tough times? We all have tricks of the trade, as they say. As long as they speak to what works for you as a parent and individual, you are on the right track. Until next time.