Michael has always been a talker and extremely social, with us and the world around him. Then puberty hit. He became social with peers and semi-social with us, but more often than not, I am noticing more retreating and heading to his room for private time alone with his videos or talking to friends. It is great when I have things to catch up on in the house, but I have had to get creative to find ways for us to bond and talk. We do eat meals together, but his appetite is not huge lately due to his medication so it is a quick deal. Other times he is either on the phone or on videos. How do I reach Michael? Well, interestingly, he gave me the opening. It is on long or longer drives around our neighborhood. Yes, as most of you know Michael loves to navigate on Google Maps and loves being in traffic. So you can guess that two of his favorite things to do are to go for drives in the car with ways he has mapped out, or to go for long walks with with me on busy boulevards where he has mapped out what streets he would like to take. Bike rides come in third. 🙂
As most parents will tell you, it is important for your child’s interests to become your own in order to continue to build a good rapport with them. If they see you loving what they love, they will continue to trust you and open up to you, even if you are no longer as cool as their friends. 😉 This has worked for me as Michael in many ways is the typical teenager, except with a dash of ADHD, anxiety, autism and blood sugar issues due to his diabetes that affect his moods one way or another. I have noticed on either walks or drives, he will talk about things that are important to him- friendships, crushes, puberty, anxieties about school or the upcoming summer vacation and we can talk about it together without it sounding like Mom grilling him again. He will also share with me his favorite music. When a song he likes comes on the radio he will tell me. We often have the same taste in music which has been a cool thing to talk about too.
With all the ups and downs he has with learning how to self-regulate, I can honestly say that our drives and walks though sometimes challenging for me when I am tired, have really cemented our mother/son relationship. I feel him opening up to me and sharing thoughts, and it is helping him to learn how to converse and handle emotions that come up. I also get a glimpse of the amazing kid I have, which I sometimes forget is there when he is having behaviors and well, rebelling against his parents as tweens do. Hey, I’m human too, and have my moments when I sigh and say, not another emotional crisis. It is important to truly be there for your child and see them in all their states and abilities. It is important to give them a chance to prove to you and themselves that they can overcome obstacles. And most importantly, it is important to encourage their passions-whatever it is.
Exceptional Parents, how do you continue to stay close to your Exceptional Children? Whatever their interests are, and of course it can be a bit of a challenge, try and immerse yourself in them. Show them you are fascinated by it. Ask questions. Stay close by if they want to talk about it. Eventually they will want to share and let you be a part of the whole experience. That is truly a priceless thing for a parent and child. Until next time.