Happy New Year! Well, the holidays have come and gone. There were ups and downs as usual, as in any exceptional family really. What stood out as highs-Michael’s increasing independence in handling his diabetes, trying to organize his time with audio visual, calls to friends, and video games which he put in his phone calendar and his 13th birthday party where he hung out with friends in typical teen fashion while the parents chit chatted. Our family visits went well too, and Michael had a play date in there as well.
He had also been steadily giving Dad and I personal and couple space. These steps made us feel proud of his progress. Lows were increasing anxiety and anger when things did not go as he planned, such as outings having to be postponed due to inclement weather, Dad or I not being able to give him a direct answer and asking for time to think on it, and finally his anxiety reaching a peak point that he needed to be around me all too much.
First off, let me say that I am so grateful that Michael can communicate with us and tell us how he feels. It has helped him overcome a lot of obstacles and I wouldn’t change having him be expressive for anything in the world. However, he will sometimes have a hard time letting go of things and need to talk them through. This is anxiety provoking for all of us. Before the holidays and even at the very beginning, he was actually still quite independent and giving me my personal space. I was worried though how he didn’t want to talk or interact much with me.
Be careful what you wish for parents. The Universe delivered BIG TIME mid to late holiday season when he had a hard time being alone, filling up space in his day, and would complain when I did my yoga, went to write, went out with a friend. It felt suffocating for me while I was also worried about his anxiety. Old tools I used were not working. I helped Michael trust himself to find new tools that could work to calm him down so that when he and I took our time together, we could talk calmly.
How did I now keep myself calm and help Michael through his anxiety? Well, for starters I took lots of mini breaks in the day and gently reminded Michael how I needed them- my half hour of meditation and coffee in the morning before joining him at breakfast, my writing at certain times of the day, my yoga or taking a nature walk. Michael complained about all the breaks I was taking. I told him it was to help me stay calm and positive so I could enjoy my holiday happily and help him do the same .
The experience helped me learn how important it is to prepare older exceptional kids for the holidays like we do younger ones. The issues are different, yet some things remain the same. How to structure the down time while leaving some time for spontaneous activities, how to make sure kids are still sleeping and eating well which affects mood. This was doubly hard as with Michael’s diabetes no matter how much we controlled, his sugars were still through the roof high which do not help with anger and outbursts. I also learned how to enjoy the little moments that did go well and not let the stressful times spoil the day. Be realistic with what your child and family can handle and don’t push the envelope at family gatherings, play dates or other activities.
At the end of the holiday, in spite of the challenges, Michael reported that he had a good holiday. His return to school went well, and now we are all slowly getting back in routine.
Exceptional Parents, how do you handle anxiety with your Exceptional Child? Remember, as long as you keep an open mind with your child, stay calm, ask for a break (or take it) when you need it, you will be able to show a good example of how to handle the ups and downs of family down time and help your child find tools that work for them. Until next time.