Puberty has been challenging for Michael. I have said this before. He is dealing with a lot of different emotions and feelings and having to learn to self-regulate and practice impulse control. Thankfully aggressive behavior overall is going down, and even anxiety. He is recognizing his strengths and giving himself credit. Dad and I are working on reminding him of that. He is also recognizing his limitations and asking for help. What I am impressed about and very proud of him for, however, is that he is willing to meet us halfway now. Yes, we are compromising as parents and child. This is mandatory when your child has ADHD or a different kind of brain with lots of other challenges, as from the beginning, they see obstacles and the world in general in another way than you do.
Where am I seeing compromise? Michael understands we make the rules for his general well-being, and if he wants to stay up later, do a fun activity longer, he checks with us. He also will give different ideas concerning controlling anger and if they don’t work, go looking for what else he can try. He is trying to learn how to get out there socially in an appropriate way, AND communicating how he feels about his relationship with us. The other day he got upset when I was heading downstairs to write;
“Mommy, can you stay upstairs until I go to bed and go write downstairs after? Can you stay in the same room with Daddy and I. You can write here or read, right?”
“I can, but you’re listening to music with your headphones anyway. Does it really matter?”
“Yes. If you stay here with Daddy and I (Dad also had headphones on watching his videos). I know we are a family.”
“We’re a family wherever we sit Michael. We do lots of things as a family.”
“But I miss you.”
My heart swelled with love. He may not want hugs and kisses from me, but he wanted my presence. He wanted the security of us all in the room together even if we were doing different things. My big boy cares and wants to bond with us still. Lately he has also been sharing more confidences with me, and a biggie everyone, he has been confessing things he did wrong, opening up by saying; “I don’t want to lie to you Mommy.” I am so proud of how he is growing up. Dad and I tell him that. Other than his points rewards system for drives, we are also watching his behavior and seeing that he can be left alone for short periods of time now. We are looking into letting him go on bike rides and walks (short) on his own. I think he sees the trust we are putting in him and he is finally seeing he can put that trust back in himself.
So what have I learned from meeting my exceptional tween halfway?
1) Write out a list of expectations (both of you): It’s important that both parent and child know where each stands.
2) Keep the lines of communication open by BEING physically and emotionally available for your child: Ask about their day, find opportunities to talk and stay nearby. You’ll never know when you’ll be missed otherwise.
3) Compromise on things like bedtime and rewards but makes sure it works both ways: Don’t be such a stickler for the rules. Pick your battles with your child, but remember, have a consequence for either of you if you step out of line, and learn from the rough times as much as from the good ones.
4) Remember your child’s limits: This is hard when they are in heavy negotiations and you think that your child can’t be limited in self-control or learning, but they are. Their very different brain does not work like yours so misunderstandings will occur if things are not clearly outlined.
5)Love your child through it all: This one sounds obvious, but too many times we are frazzled and frustrated and forget that our child is struggling even when they are angry and yelling at us. It’s important after they calm themselves down and you do the same, that you show and tell them you love them always. They need to know they are accepted for who they are.
Exceptional Parents, how have you met your Exceptional Child halfway? What has been the result? I’m sure you both came out winners. It’s important to remember we all have bad days or weeks. We need as parents to teach our children how mistakes, fears and hurts help us learn. And then show them, through our example, how it is done. Until next time.