Is It Me or Not? How Exceptional Parents Affect Their Exceptional Child’s Handling Of Stress

I know this may sound a little suspicious. I know even the title above sounds like it is saying we as exceptional parents cause our exceptional child’s stress and their reaction to stress. If the title sounds like that, I apologize. That’s not at all what I am saying. But what I have noticed in my personal experience and among those of my friends and their experiences, is that as parents, we affect how our kids, both exceptional and not, see the world and their place in it. If our child happens to have anxiety issues as a lot of exceptional kids do, this means that the pressure is on even more for us to be calm, collected and rational around them. It’s not as hard as it sounds, though there are moments. Still, I am lucky to have a school and home team reminding me that Dad and I are the key to helping Michael understand others who are different to him and helping them understand how he is different to them. They also remind me that, for better or worse, if Dad and I are patient, calm and collected, we are better equipped to steer Michael back from the edge of the cliff he is on when he escalates with anxiety, anger or both.

The last two nights have gone very well, in contrast to a very tough start the week. Like with any child, Michael has his good and bad days. Really, like any adult too. But I do credit two things to this change; Michael internalizing the tools we are introducing to help him manage his emotions better, and Dad and I exhibiting greater patience and a calm exterior and interior when Michael is stressed. We are making an effort to do this with one another too, even if we disagree with what the other parent may have said or done. This has been hugely helpful in moving things forward peacefully. Michael’s Educator had gently asked if on the afternoons or evenings when Michael’s anger or anxiety was worse, did I become more outwardly anxious or handle things differently than before? Once I thought about it, I realized there were times when I did overreact or stress due to my own exhaustion and frustration. Dad too. We’re only human after all.

Her words stayed with me, and now the self-care practices I do are even more important to me. I also remind myself to check in with how I am feeling at any given moment. This does not mean I blame myself for a meltdown or crisis. It only means that I see how I am feeling and where my resources to cope with stress fall at any given time. I also realize now that I can go into a crisis situation or an anxious one with Michael knowing that I will do my best to stay calm, pace myself, and guide us both out the other side as peacefully as possible. While I don’t cause any of his reactions, he does, I can help to diffuse a potential meltdown by finding my inner happy or calm place, and channeling that energy to Michael. I can be there to hold him emotionally when he falls apart, and then when the crisis is over go to refuel myself for better days or other challenging ones.

Exceptional Parents, do you notice that your kids will calm down faster when you are calm? It’s true, no matter what age they are, if the caregiver holds it together as best as they can, the child will find their way out quicker. As hard as it is, remember that you are the adult. It is easier to recognize what may be missing in your bag of coping mechanisms, get help for it, so you can parent with the proper love and boundaries your child needs. You have the power parents, but it must start with you. In the end, you will start seeing improvements, even small ones, if you take care of your needs. Only then can you show your child how to take care of theirs. Until next time.

Looking for help or support on how to parent an exceptional child? Feeling alone and in need of connecting to an adult who gets it? For more information on my coaching services and packages, please see my website:

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