So Michael has been having some social fears this summer. He will go to crowded places for brief periods of time, had no trouble at summer camp where he knows people, but is feeling a little overwhelmed going places with me and Dad. I agree with our Educator that I think he is just so much more aware of everyone and everything around him, and due to difficulty with understanding some social cues, I think he would rather stay away from people than make a mistake socializing. I wish I could say that I have been more understanding with this. It’s not that I have not been understanding, but lately his tween anger, rude comments and adolescent posturing combined with the anxiety, has made me feel a little overwhelmed. Some days are easier than others, and I always try and see the gifts Michael has, but I don’t always shine anymore than Michael does. We do our best to regroup and start again.
Don’t get me wrong. We still have good moments. He has come so far in independence with organizing himself, managing his diabetes and of course, his amazing ability to navigate any street or area in our city. The most fun is having him direct me around town as I have zero sense of direction. He is starting to try and learn other cities now! Still, it occurred to me today when Michael expressed frustration that I don’t listen to him and that is why he gets mad and I echoed the same sentiments, that we needed to sit down and look at new tools to work collaboratively as a family. Here are the ones I am putting in place:
1) Make lists of things you want to fix together The trick to making these lists is that both you AND your child sit down together and write what improvements each of you could make so that communication gets easier.
2) Praise the good efforts they are making even if there are still mistakes: Michael had been feeling that even when he messes up the times he doesn’t do not get praised. I was actually feeling underappreciated myself in this area as well. After having a few fights this week, we each took time apart and then made a deal to look for the good in each other. We also both told the other one we like spending time together, just need to improve how we communicate.
3) Remember your child is having a harder time than you: Sigh. This has been tough for me. Most summers it is as I have Michael 24/7 a lot more than during the school year and he is not in routine the same way as in school. Still, even during a rough patch earlier today, I reminded myself that as overwhelmed as I am with Michael in puberty, with his unique brain and diabetes, for him this is all way more stressful to handle. Compassion for your child needs to come first. Then for yourself.
4) Tell them you love them even if they don’t say it back: Yep. Mine is too cool to say I love you and does not want hugs. I get “I like you” and high fives, tens or twenties. It’s ok and I know normal for a lot of kids in puberty to do this. The fact that he says he wants to spend time with me, is discouraged when I am upset, and does silly inappropriate things to get my attention, show me I matter to him. I am starting to say I love you more often and not go to bed mad. I also remind him I am always there to talk about things whenever he needs me.
5) Take care of yourself and tell them why you are doing it: Make sure your child sees you doing things that make you happy. When Michael asks me “why are you going outside again?” He is upset that I am not in the same room as him, but I explain that being in the yard is my time to recharge, unwind, be creative and occasionally let out big emotions. When I come back in, I am calmer and able to handle things better with him. Then we have time together.
Exceptional Parents, what tools do you use to handle the ups and downs of life with your Exceptional Child? As long as what you use works for the two of you, the formula is correct. Remember, they need to feel as listened to as you do. They need to know you respect them, love them no matter what unconditionally, and that you will never give up on them. Until next time.