Category: Couple issues

Giving Space And Making Time For One Another In Exceptional Relationships- How To Strike The Best Balance 5 Tips

One thing being an Exceptional Parent has taught me is how tough it can be to balance that with being a wife and partner. Michael has opened up my eyes (and Dad’s) to so many amazing things that parents often take for granted that their children can do. Michael amazed us (and continues to amaze us) with all his talents and all he could do. However, there are those moments when things become challenging to manage as a parent, individual and in a couple, when so much of your energy is spent helping and advocating for your Exceptional Child. I have learned much in our twelve year journey as parents, and nine year journey as Exceptional Parents. Mainly it has been how to ride through the hard moments of parenting, celebrate the easy ones, and ask for help as individuals and as a couple when we have needed it. Dad and I seem to be coming through ok on the other side, though we have had LOTS of growing and lots more to do.

On that note, I have come up with some observations and steps that we have followed to keep our relationship strong and get stronger in the challenging times, so that we could be the best kind of people for ourselves, each other and Michael. Here are some life tips that I am living through and which continue to help me in my couple journey. This is still a learning process for Dad and I.

  1. Write down what is bugging you and show it without guilt to your partner.
  2. Make a schedule where each of you has alone time, family/friend time and couple time.
  3. Make exercise and healthy eating a top priority to be at your best.
  4. Laugh together over the little things.
  5. Seek outside help if none of the above are working

This tips are really common sense, but so many times we all forgot to use our heads when living day to day life that I like the idea of having them on paper in front of me as a reminder for how I want to live my own life in balance. On the tough days, I now commend myself that I have made it through them and learn from my mistakes. On the successful days, I celebrate in little ways my victories. I do this now (or at least try to most of the time), in couple form too. It’s important to support each other, admit when there is anger, and grow from it. This is the only way to move forward and grow together.

Exceptional Parents, what are your tips for prioritizing your personal relationship? How have you learned to re-connect with your partner? Remember, admitting mistakes is never easy, but it’s ok as we all make them. Celebrate the little victories as a couple as you do individual and parenting victories. Be honest with each other and supportive. Give each other space and time.  And remember that your child is evidence of the love you have for each other and can continue to have when you prioritize your couple needs along with other challenges you face. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

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When Exceptional Couples Fight- What NOT To Say

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Marriage is hard work. Marriage with an Exceptional Child or Children is that much harder. Couples will disagree at times and fight about parenting decisions, but the worst thing to do is fight in front of your child. I am guilty of this as I feel like a referee sometimes between Michael and his Dad when they fight. I don’t want to be the peacekeeper between them. I want them to work it out, and I am in the process of learning new ways to extract myself from this position. Dad is more patient than I am in some ways, but blows his top in others. Michael does not benefit from either one of these styles, and we are trying to adjust our parenting styles and meet halfway. We also want to make our marriage grow and become stronger.

Friday nights seem to be the toughest. Everyone is tired after a long week, and one little change or extension in the bedtime routine or sometimes just Michael’s total need to control everything and the evening takes on a stressful turn.  What can parents do? The question then becomes what NOT to do and you’ll know what to do. Here are some suggestions of what NOT to do when disagreeing about parenting decisions:

  1. Don’t fight in front of the kids: Yes, we all know this, but sometimes those of us who are a little hot headed will blow up. Guilty as charged. Ask for forgiveness, check in to see if you are following better self-care routines, (could use improvement in my case), and sometimes see if you can go for single counselling.
  2. Don’t say “I told you so”: So many of us have done this either out loud or by our actions. It’s not helpful. If you make a mistake, own it and apologize when the time is right. If your partner does, give them the same courtesy.
  3. Don’t make your partner feel worse: It is tempting to say things like “you are never there for me”, “I feel so alone,” “you are not the only one with problems,” but this will only create more animosity. Start with being honest with your partner when you have both calmed down. That means “I’m sorry,” followed by an “I love you,” then “Do you need a parenting break?” “How can I help?” We all make mistakes.  Both partners need to do this.  And remember, we all make mistakes. It’s if you keep making the same ones that you need to ask yourself where you are going wrong.
  4. Don’t sacrifice personal time: One thing I used to do when there was friction between Dad and Michael, me and Michael or me and Dad was NOT take time for me. After all, I did not deserve it OR would feel bad that my boys would fall apart without me there. Now, I know better. Just like your job can manage without you for a day, so can your family. Always take time to recharge your batteries.
  5. Don’t think therapy can’t help: So many of us discount therapy thinking it cannot help us individually or in our relationships, but therapy is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your partner. I have gone for therapy in the past and if I need to go again for me I will not hesitate. I also think couples therapy is wonderful as long as the two people have done their individual homework and can move forward from there.

Exceptional Parents, how many of you have your NOT DO”s to share with the rest of the Exceptional Parenting Community? What have you learned and what are you still learning? In the end, don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes and move forward as an individual first, then as a couple. Your child will look to the two of you as a united front if you do this. This will help them with their confidence as well, and the whole family will become happier and healthier. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com

 

 

 

Rediscovering Self and Partner Care In the Exceptional Parent Equation

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So today was a bit of a rediscovery for Michael’s Dad and I. We had a long period of time when we were together late this afternoon at a spa and then out for dinner and talking at home after dinner. Uninterrupted talk that does not center on Michael is very difficult indeed for us, as is finding activities to do as a couple when Michael is absent from home for a long period. This does not happen often in our house, as I imagine it does not happen often in other houses either, especially when there is more than one child. It is complicated for parents to get away and rediscover who they were prior to becoming parents. Michael’s Dad and I are in the process of doing that now. There are ups and downs in the process, and we are excited to embrace the ups and prepared to handle the downs. In the end,  the fact that we are having the couple “self-care” discussion is important. Seld-care  and couple-care are both integral to how you will handle your relationship with your child and yourself as well as with others.

Michael’s Dad and my partner is not a big spa guy, but for me he went and made the best of it. I love him more than words can say for that. We talked over dinner and wine 🙂 what activities he may be more interested in trying out for our next couple day/evening out. I hope it will be before Michael’s next school camp outing in a year! We will do our best to prioritize it, with securing a sitter so we could perhaps spend a night away somewhere. I know Michael is having fun at his school’s sleep away camp, even before hearing from his teacher and getting great pictures to boot. This makes me realize that Dad and I need to have our own fun too when we can. It makes us better individuals and parents when we are relaxed and feeling well put together. Michael deserves to be happy and so do we as his parents. That is what will make us all handle stress and everything in between so much better.

Exceptional Parents, do you truly make time for self-care and couple care within your family? Remember, you and  your partner deserve time alone and together in order to parent at your strongest. Don’t ever be afraid to make plans (even small ones), to prioritize  your relationship. If you as adults are strong, it will help build the whole family up. Until next time.

 

 

How This Exceptional Mom Embraces Failure Now And How It Helps Her To Grow

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Dad and I made some communication mistakes over the weekend. Nothing dire happened. There were some misunderstandings with Michael, and some little fights but nothing serious. I actually felt sorry for Michael, though like any kid, he played us a little and tried negotiating more “stuff” for himself. What it brought home to me last night while Dad and I talked, was how important it is for both parents to be on the same page no matter what. That also means parents have to make the time to communicate about their child in a busy household. This is not always easy when there are other stresses and commitments, but somehow it must be done.

I found myself on another long walk with Michael yesterday late afternoon. Unlike a previous one where a slew of behaviors came out on his end, yesterday he was an angel. I found myself getting angry, dumping my emotions on my child (something I’m not proud that I regressed briefly to doing), and seeing how I could use this moment to keep beating myself up as a mother and parent or learn from it. I embraced my failure on that walk yesterday, and asked myself, what was it teaching me? I learned that I needed to get back to communicating more clearly with my partner about childcare and what our roles would be. I needed to be able to make that clear to Michael. Finally, I realized I needed to practice better self-care for me by reminding myself what I needed to stay strong. That is how things would move much more smoothly.

We may think we exist in a vacuum or our feelings do, but that is not true. We all are entitled to our feelings, however they affect those around us. That is why talking, planning and being clear to everyone in your family is so important for happiness and stability of all its members. And if it doesn’t happen, embrace the failure and learn from it. Admit it to your child and partner, and you will all grow stronger for it. Trust me on this. Our family has.

Exceptional Parents, how do you react to mistakes and failures? How do your children handle theirs? It is so important to teach everyone in your household that we all do things wrong from time to time. As long as we learn from it and make sure those around us do the same, we will be moving on to a happier and healthier path in the future. Until next time .

 

Feeling stressed about fall and back to school? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

Autism, Wedding Anniversaries And Remembering the Growth In Between

 

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My wedding anniversary is coming up. This has always been an important day for me. It marks the day I formalized the love I felt for my partner who became my husband in front of God and all our family and friends. We began a life I thought would go very differently than the one we ended up living. But I have to say, the one we ended up living is way better. It took us awhile to get to the point where we felt that way. Before then, there were good times, bad times, and uncertainty. We had autism come into our lives through Michael, and though we did not see it as that at the time, it saved us. It made us stronger as individuals, stronger as a couple, and stronger as parents. Michael truly opened up both our eyes as individuals and parents as to what is possible and about difference in general.  And as hard as it is for us, we always remember that Michael is the one living with a very different brain in a world that may not always understand him or him it. He is braver than us yet has showed us to be brave too.  It is a learning process for all of us. We teach Michael about the world, and he teaches us about ourselves and what is truly important. Together we move forward as a family and as a couple.

 

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For many years when Michael was little, my wedding anniversary took a back seat. I don’t mean that I didn’t want or enjoy celebrating it, but that I worried a lot more about Michael than about how I marked it. I know Michael’s Dad felt the same. We enjoyed dinner and time together, but did not really understand or celebrate that we were a team, a force to be reckoned with in raising our son, an incredible human being that I know will do incredible things. We were just tired parents of  special needs child looking for quality time together. Two years ago that changed for me. After suffering a burnout/depression, I thought I had failed as a wife and mother and person. I needed to rebuild me, one brick at a time. I took time to heal, to practice things that I needed to do to become whole again. I relearned about what made me tick after six years of being Michael’s mother, therapist, and cheerleader. I also relearned about the woman I was when I fell in love with Michael’s Dad. She was funny, creative, had a zest for life and loved music, family, friends, movement and writing. She loved being creative and doing creative things. She loved people, spirituality and life. She loved her husband and spending time with him. That creative, fun, carefree woman came back only stronger. She came back with the inner little girl child I had let lay dormant inside me for too long. This inner child said,  you will find yourself if you take care of you and celebrate the whole you: the woman you were before you had an exceptional child with the woman you are now.

Exceptional Parents, how many of you are in relationships, but are not prioritizing it due to emotional and financial exhaustion? That is all a normal part of raising exceptional children. But just remember this. Our children were given to us for a reason, and if you let them, they can transform your life and your partner’s for the better. You will benefit, and your partner and your child will benefit from a you that is whole and remembers what and who it loved long ago and still loves now . Think of the incredible human being you have helped bring into the world, your child. Until next time.

 

6 Ways Exceptional Parents Can Structure Their Day For Success

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Michael has introduced me to many things. He has helped me see the world in his unique way: an orderly, occupied and curious way of questioning things I take for granted, such as what a person really meant when they said something, why do we focus so much on money and the news, which kids with a different brain like him pick up on. He has helped his father and I see how some of how our world works is a little strange, and not necessarily easily understood.

Summer is a rough time for Michael and kids on the spectrum, as it is a lot less concrete than what happens the rest of the year. Michael is learning what we accept and don’t accept, and we remind him of how he can make good choices versus bad choices. Using structured ways to calm down is important for everyone, and Dad and I have our own ways just as Michael does to handle exceptional parenting duties, as well as manage our own personal stresses. Below are the ways we structure our days to manage this.

6 Ways Exceptional Parents Can Structure Their Day:

  1. Use your own version of the dry erase board or pictogram schedule : Now, I know all parents have an agenda they use on their phone or in a book. We write down kids’ appointments, work commitments, but how many of us put in things like meditation time, exercise 1 hour, evening with the girls or guys?  This is very important for your balance, and putting them in will make them easier to keep.
  2. Give yourself a pep talk about any events that may be stress inducing: This is my adult version of a social story. You remind yourself of the structure of the event, what’s going to happen, prepare yourself as you need to (if work related with your presentation and slides etc.), and look over pictures of the place, the rooms, the people you will meet (if you know in advance). Remember, this is to help you relax like when your child does it.
  3. Make sure you have movement breaks (exercise), snacks and drink lots of water: How often are we telling our kids to move when they feel stressed, to eat better and to drink lots of water? Imagine how good we would feel if we took this advice.
  4.  Mix up work and fun: Our kids have work times and fun times in school. As adults, we rarely take time to have fun. I caught myself telling Michael the other day, I have lots of work to do,blah, blah, blah. It’s true, but once in awhile go for a drive, go to the park and read a book, go to a movie, You will come back recharged.
  5. Look at the glass half full instead of half empty:  Remember think positive, do your best, and laugh about the silly moments. It will all work out anyway.

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Exceptional Parents, how often have you looked at your children and thought despite their challenges, how well they work when they have a written or visual plan of action? Why not develop one for yourself then. After all, as their parent you have to be at the same calm place as they are when they are organized. From what I have seen and learned first hand, is when the parents are organized, calm, and centered, this can only help their child more. So don’t be afraid to do your own version of the dry erase board. You won’t regret the feeling of organization you have in your life. Until next time.

6 Great Exceptional Parent Outing Ideas

 

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All Moms and Dads are tired. They are holding down jobs, keeping house, and trying to spend time with kids somewhere in there. If their kids are “exceptional” it means therapy, different types of extra curricular activities along with school, camp and the regular child things. It’s important not to burn out and to take care of ourselves. This is hard to do. You want to go out alone, with your partner and with your girl/guy friends, but who has the time? This is the tricky thing. You’ve got to make the time. For some of us, a great outing is a power walk by the lake. For others, it is a coffee date with a good book. Some of us need more alone too. Others need more couple or friend time. Whatever you do, make sure to put the time in.

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What are some great outing ideas and how can you plan them? Well, for starters think what your interests are. Remember interests, those things you did before having your Exceptional Child? 🙂 I’m someone that loves going to bookstores, nature walks, for a massage or to spas. I also love meeting my girlfriends for lunch, dinner or coffee/drinks. I also need a balance of time alone and with my friends. Time with my partner is important too. We are trying to schedule our next date night as I write this. 🙂 What do you like? What do your friends and family like to do? Here are some ideas for your next “Exceptional Parents Night Out”: (male or female, though I can really only speak for females. :)):

  1. Spa Day Or Evening: A lot of local places will give you access to the baths or even do a mani/pedi session which is rejuvenating.
  2. Picnic lunch or dinner: This is economical and fun now that the warm weather is here. Find some beautiful green space, get together with your girlfriends, bring the blankets and sandwiches, and have a blast.
  3. Check out local festivals: In Montreal we have so many: Shakespeare in the Park, Jazz Festival, Carribean Music Festival etc.
  4. Do a potluck lunch or dinner at someone’s house (send one partner and kids away): This is also fun and economical AND you can have wine as it’s on your property. 🙂
  5. Rent a movie and get together at someone’s house OR go to a theater: This is always a fun one for me as I see movies once or twice a year that are not animated. 🙂
  6. Go see a play, poetry reading or hear an interesting talk: It ranges in price, but is fun. Make sure your friend/spouse is as interested as you or it won’t be as much fun.

 

Exceptional Parents, what are some fun ideas for you? Moms and Dads, how do your ideas differ? As long as it’s a parenting break and recharge, it’s a good choice. In order to be the best for our kids, we need to take care of us. So go on. It’s time to plan your “Exceptional Outing.” Until next time.

 

 

Exceptional Handling of Stress

 

I am very proud of how well Michael is handling stress overall in his life.  He is learning how to deal with stressful feelings in a better way at home too. There are less explosions, less hitting and other aggressive behaviors with me and even with Dad. We’ve had our moments, and it’s always been when I am wishy washy or Dad is, in other words, changing our minds in what we say or do. Last night we had a small fight about said rules, and it made me realize how important having a face to face conversation with Dad about rules for Michael is. It is hard some nights. We are exhausted, we have work to do, and we don’t always have the time to talk. But let’s face it, we all need to check in with our partners on parenting or else any child will try and play the parents off each other. I believe everything that happens happens for a reason. As a family we have entered the next phase of growing together, and that means growing strong as a unit where there is no negotiating, no hemming or hawing, and clear rules and boundaries for all of us.

Michael, like any child, is smart. He knows how to push buttons, and often it is not even about getting his way because that is necessarily what he wants. I think it is also to see if he can do it because he can. There is bravado, there is anxiety, there is fear, there is spirit. As his parents, we are careful not to crush his spirit, but lead him to learn about the benefits of our rules and boundaries for his safety. Some days that is easier than others.

Michael has opened up my world and helped me find courage, freedom from most of my anxieties, and helped me become a risk taker. He is all of these things, even with the anxiety and fear I know he lives with. He shows me every day what he needs or does not need, and humbly helps me to learn when I make a mistake. I think he does the same for his father. We are as much his student and he is ours, learning from each other what is good and not good to do as a family and as an individual. Some days I get it totally right. Some days not. The same can be said of him. The same can be said of his Dad. I am just glad after a rough start to the night yesterday, things ended well before I left home for my writers meeting and we all made up with one another. I remembered my Mom’s words from when I was a little girl, to never go to bed angry.

How do you handle stress and angry emotions? How does your child? What ways do you decrease stress and find tools to calm down? What does your child use? If you don’t have answers to all of these questions, don’t worry. Start thinking about them and writing down some suggestions for you and your child.As a family, having clear, consistent boundaries, rules and ways to express feelings in a calm way, will help all of you to grow together positively and get through the hard moments. Until next time.

Intimate Marital Connections And Risks

 

I am proud of the small steps Michael’s Dad and I are making in taking care of ourselves as individuals, as well as spending time with Michael. Making time for us as a couple is more difficult, but at at least we are aware of what we need to change. What works best is planning in advance for a “date night” whether that is going out somewhere and arranging a sitter, or a quiet evening in. This month has been hectic for both of us with work and with Michael’s schedule so we have not had a lot of energy by night time. Either he or will crash early, but we are finding ways to communicate, even if it’s just texting each other during the day. I have joked with my friends that my marriage is lived on “text”, but on the hectic busy days it is better than nothing, as they say.

With Michael I am seeing a smooth transition where Dad takes him to activities and they do their evening bonding during the week. I’ll step in when I have to if Michael’s Dad is having a hard day and he will do the same thing. I can see that though there is work to do still, as a couple we are getting stronger. I also see how both of us have learned to ask for what we need to be strong. For me, attending my writer’s meetings in the evenings is important, and for my husband his evening workouts and personal time is important for him. We have both learned to ask for this time around taking care of Michael, and it is working well for us. I am happy that we are both doing this. Michael has helped us see what we need to do to be strong, happy, and healthy people.

Exceptional Parents, how have your Exceptional Children helped you to grow as an individual and in your relationships? To me, Michael has helped to open my eyes to how I need to prioritize time, objectives, and things that are important to me. him being at the top of the list. Remember, when you are strong in yourself, in your  relationships, you are strong for your child to guide them to success in their life. Until next time.

The Exceptional Return Home

I am so proud of my little man. And I could call him that now, a little man, as he did so well for his first ever sleep away at Winter Camp for three days two nights. He loved all of it, mostly the food. Those were his words. 🙂  From the time I picked him up at school with his luggage, he talked in excitement non stop about his three days of adventures. He recounted tubing, roasting marshmallows, the great food, playing in the cabins with his friends, and several times made me promise to “sign the forms” next year to send him back again. He never once said he missed me or his Dad which told me that he truly was ready for this experience, though of course he did say he’s happy to be home and hugged me extra hard at bedtime.

For me when I saw him in the classroom for the first time in two days, I had another emotional moment. My throat closed up for a minute, and I silently reminded myself, don’t cry with joy that you are seeing him again. You don’t want him to see you cry and get confused. He’s growing up, spreading his wings, and this is something to be celebrated. Being a parent is such a strange experience. I truly enjoyed the little parental “rest” I’d gotten over the last few days. I enjoyed watching a movie with Michael’s Dad, our couples massage, our dinner out, and, though it was hard, talking about things other than autism, bills and house stuff, though we slipped up a few times. We need more practice, more days and nights like this.

Once you are a parent there’s no going back. I was never totally away from thinking of my little boy. How was he enjoying being at a nature camp? How was he coping with sleeping away from his bed? How was he eating, toileting? Ah, the things Moms worry about. Mind you, even when he is at school, at his grandparents’ house, at an activity, he is never far from my mind, my thoughts. My own mother said to me when I first got married about how having children was the real deal breaker that changed you. You could never “unbecome” a parent though you could have a do over in any other area in your life, a job, a marriage, a friendship. But becoming a parent was forever. Another Mom friend who I spoke to totally getting what three adult days without Michael in the house said, “It’s quiet without him there,eh?” And then she smiled in that knowing way. She had experienced that too when her daughters slept away from home.  You’re always a parent first, even when your kids are elsewhere. With each passing day I see what my Mom meant. There’s no going back. I personally think you are changed for the better, but it is an awesome responsibility all the same.

Exceptional Parents, what experiences have you all had when your Exceptional Children slept away from home, if you’ve experienced this with them yet? Was it a positive one for you, for them? Michael’s Dad and I had a weird moment going for a late dinner the other night. We remembered back when we used to do this before Michael was born. It seemed eons ago, not nine years. Parenthood is a growth experience. It opens up your mind to a different kind of loving, and if you let it, to a different way of experiencing the world. So let it change and mold you. Let your Exceptional Child be your Exceptional Teacher. Until next time.