So I realized this morning when Michael got up a little earlier that I have become “that Mom or parent” I said I wouldn’t. You know, the one who is so focused on work and getting stuff done, she is annoyed that her child is up early when she had planned to do work. Yes folks. I have succumbed. I repeatedly say to myself, my partner, and Michael that my job is flexible and I do it around Michael’s schedule, all of which is true. But of course there are also times that I need to catch up on things. Early morning or late evening are best as that is when Michael is asleep. But as I heard his little steps outside the room I was finishing my yoga in I became nervous and sad. Nervous that we would have another “fight” about my work and sad that I was thinking that I wanted to still be alone.
And that is when it hit me. Michael missed me. He missed having time to talk in the morning, share his thoughts and just be present with me. Many of our kids want this too as do parents. But how can we do it? Here are some ways that have worked in our family and in families I personally know:
- Have talk time set aside for each child with each parent at home or at a special place you go everyday: Michael has his morning time with me and evening with Dad. In families where there are two or more children, it’s obviously more complicated. Friends of mine “trade off” time with kids, and sometimes as in the case of three or four kids parents will each take two kids out and do a common activity that both kids like.
- Spend time talking or being available to listen in the car: This was when I had all my best chats with my Dad as did my brother, while he drove us to activities. My Mom was a stay and work at home parent who worked around our schedules so we would talk to her after school.
- Put aside one night for family stay in time: Ok, this does not always work in my house. My kid DOES NOT like to stay in, but we are working on doing a family stay in movie night, maybe board game night etc.
- Make a parent/child night or day out tradition once a month: This is one I don’t do as having one child makes it easy for Dad and I to have our alone and together time as a family with Michael, but I have friends that swear by this, Mother/Daughter movie night, pizza night out, book club etc. Go for it. Your child will love it.
- Cuddling up at bedtime: This is my favorite time with Michael. He has always been nervous in the evenings and at bedtime. He loves the calm predictable routine of story, Qigong massage, and me tucking him in and cuddling for a little bit before leaving the room. I like it too. It reminds me of the sweet little boy he is even when he has driven me crazy during the day as I have him. 🙂
These are just a few ways you can strengthen the bond with your child or children. It will be well worth it. Kids, exceptional or not, who feel loved, cherished and supported handle stress and anxiety much better. They are resilient, and are fighters in every sense of the word.
Exceptional Parents, what suggestions do you have to add to this list? I would love to hear from you! Are you a hands on parent or does life sometimes distract you? Don’t worry if you agreed with distraction. As long as we show our kids how much we love them by being present as much as we can, the rest will slowly fall into place. Until next time.
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We had a very busy and eventful weekend. It was raining which added to emotional tensions for Michael. He has never been a child who liked the rain. It makes him moody, more emotional, and his sensory system gets out of whack. Add to that family commitments, a birthday party, and lots of catch up work in the house and on my job, and let’s just say, that Mom and Dad both needed to use our “silent strategies” to handle our anxieties, stress, while helping Michael to handle his. It was not an easy weekend, though we had our good moments. What silent strategies work for us, you may ask? I will now share them with you. These strategies are not the same as when Michael says, “it’s ok Mommy, I pushed down my anger.” I have done that as has Dad, and that only results in disaster for all. No, these strategies when done regularly, ideally before Michael is stressed and we are, works like a charm. They can even work when we start to implement them after stress or anger have occurred. The only thing is that it takes longer to feel the positive effects, but we do feel them.
Without further ado, here are 5 strategies your whole Exceptional Family can use to calm down:
- Deep breathing and meditation in a quiet room: Both Dad and I excuse ourselves and do this from time to time. My favorite rooms, the bedroom, the bathroom, or my car. All have locks which I use until my breathing returns to normal and I can think clearly.
- Walking up and down hallway or taking a walk outside in nature or a park: This one is used mainly by Michael, but going out for a walk has been tremendously helpful for me many times, nature and otherwise. I have had some good thoughts and released many tears on these walks. All cathartic.
- Going for a drive in the car: Ok, Michael can’t drive, 🙂 but Dad and I have used this to get away, think and calm down so we wouldn’t lash out. You have to make sure there is a calm parent to stay with the child if you do this one.
- Yoga stretches: There are a few great ones you can do to silently energize: downward dog, child’s pose, corpse pose etc.
- Listening to music: Putting on headphones and listening to music (classical or new age is best to chill), can help ground you as well.
Dad and I have been modeling these for Michael, and we continuously remind him to do his own strategies to calm down. It is so important. I had my moments as did Dad over the weekend when we lost our temper. We were not calm as we usually were with Michael, due to not practicing our own strategies. We used this time though as teaching examples to Michael of what NOT to do, and to show him that we all make mistakes. If you make a habit to consistently use ways to calm down, you will be able to stay relaxed through many incidents in exceptional family life, and you will be showing your child how to do the same.
Exceptional Parents, what positive silent strategies do you use in your families, for yourself and your child? What has worked for you, and what has failed? Sometimes, as with many things, it is through trial and error that we learn what works for our families. So don’t despair. Talk alone to your partner. Talk alone to your child. Then talk as a family, and choose healthy silent strategies will help you all handle stress on a regular basis. This way when you have those tough days or weekends, you will be as ready as you can be. Until next time.
So this weekend is Father’s Day, and our family is blessed to have four wonderful fathers to celebrate with, Michael’s Dad, my Dad, my brother and my Father-In-Law. Although we mark the celebrations for all four on different days as it is easier logistically speaking, it does not make that day any less special as we always call our fathers and my brother on that day to wish them. And each year I have the same thought: we are a lucky family to have such good nurturing men among us. I particularly see the strong bond that continues to grow between Michael and his Dad. It warms my heart the way Michael greets his Dad when he comes home, is eager to talk and share parts of his day with him, and will be heard saying often;
“I want Daddy to take me to the park. I want to go alone with Daddy.”
He even told me several days in advance about his craft for Daddy for Father’s Day and the card. He proudly told his father what he made him and how he can’t wait to give it to him on Sunday. It’s great that he is attaching more and more to Dad as time goes on. Little boys need a good strong male role model as they grow up. I am particularly happy as Dad and Michael seem to be developing their own language and ways of playing and interacting. It is separate from me, yet it is not as if I am excluded. It is just “boys stuff” and I love how this is bringing them closer. Michael and I have our Mommy and son time which is special too, and then we have our family time when it is special for all of us.
What I find particularly beautiful is how Dad is learning to relate more and more to Michael’s autism, and help him find ways to navigate the rough patches as well as celebrate the victories. I will hear Dad reminding Michael to use his strategies, he remains calmer than me when Michael tests and shows Michael the port in the storm. He also makes that extra effort when he is tired to play with Michael, to be there for him, to show him love. And he encourages him with reading, writing and sports. He is proud of Michael and sees more and more Michael’s potential. It has been a long road for these two as accepting Michael’s diagnosis was not easy for Dad. He was not the one home to see all that I saw, so it was normal that he doubted things at first. Like many Dads, he needed his own time to reflect and come to terms. When he did, the bond between the two began to grow. Now, he is not only Michael’s Exceptional Father but my Exceptional Husband, a true partner in advocating for our Exceptional Little boy, and helping him grow into the wonderful little person he is.
Exceptional Parents, how are you celebrating Father’s Day this weekend? Will you be marking it with a big lunch or dinner or something simple? Will you do separate celebrations with the other Dads in the family? No matter what you choose, just remember how important a Dad’s duty is. Dads do a lot for their families in so many ways, and today’s Dads are amazing in how they support their partners, particularly Exceptional Dads, who need to be that much stronger for their Exceptional Families. So here’s a shout out and wishing all of you out there a Happy Father’s Day! Until next time.