Category: marriage/relationship work

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

 

 

 

Learning From The Pain And Failures-What Exceptional Children Can Teach Us

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I am reading a very good book now called “When Things Fall Apart-Heart Advice For Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron. I have always admired much of Buddhism’s teachings, particularly when they talk about growing from suffering and seeing the beauty in it. I know, I know. This sounds like I am some kind of martyr who is advocating a woman or man sacrificing themselves on the altar of exceptional parenting. I assure you I am NOT doing that. I lived that many years ago, when I was failing to see what being Michael’s Mom was teaching me. Back then I thought I had to be the “perfect” Exceptional Mom who had all the answers. I thought there was no room for failure and by thinking I had to be superwoman I burned myself out, literally and figuratively. Now today, I know better. I still have my moments, of course. Lately with Michael’s myriad of behavior and anxiety challenges (as well as some diabetes’ ones), I have felt particularly sorry for myself and him and upset in general. I have not been viewing the “gift” in what his challenges are teaching him as well as Dad and I. What gift you may say? I know. I have been saying it to myself too even though I have been hating the fact I am saying it. The gift is that we can all transcend these challenges and become stronger. The gift is that we are still alive and surviving through a very rough time. The gift, for me, is to make me face my anger finally after forty years.

As a woman, I like many others was thought to push my anger down deep inside. It may hurt people’s feelings. It may cause ripples. It may cost me friendships, opportunities if I blew. This is all true. But somewhere along the line I forget to speak up for myself, to advocate for what I knew to be true and right. Somewhere along the line I forgot to let out pent up feelings of frustration, stress, anxiety and aggression in a productive way.  Well, I can say that over the years having a different brained, emotionally challenging child has definitively helped me get past many of my issue with anger. Now, after recovering from a burnout many years ago, I am freely expressing my anger. Sometimes it is productive. Sometimes not so much. Either way I am in touch with my anger and frustration. This was something I was not doing twenty years ago. Consequently, I am also more in touch with my joy and happiness. Michael is the major reason for this. He helps and forces me to live in the moment. In order to help him, I have to take a step back and check in with me to see if I could handle anything unpredictable. If I can’t, I have learned to ask for a break. Sometimes it is later than I needed to ask for one, but as the saying goes, “better late than never.”

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Lately, our family has been kind of stuck in an ‘in between stage’ of handling emotional upheavals and physical highs and lows of diabetes. Against how I normally would proceed, I have been feeling a little sorry for myself and Michael’s situation and not looking  to see the gift in it for us. After some time alone this morning and this evening, I have come to the conclusion that I am doing neither of us any favors unless I embrace the hardship he and I and Dad are going through and see it as teaching us all how to be more resilient and stronger as individuals and as a family. That is not to say it is easy. It is hard. But longing for days in the past when things were easier, is not an option for any exceptional parent. You need to meet your child where they are right here and now. If you can’t and need a break, get one. You will come back recharged and ready to re-engage with your Exceptional Child in a whole new way. At the very least, you will have your sense of humor back to help them learn to discover theirs!

Exceptional Parents,  what have you learned from the pain and failures when parenting your Exceptional Children?  Have you become stronger as a result? I can tell you from personal experience and in my work, most parents and caregivers become stronger from pain and suffering. It does not mean we seek out pain because we are masochists, but rather we learn that our pain is there to teach us something, and help us overcome obstacles. When we do that, we will see that all life for us and our children is a cycle of pain and joy. We will learn to ride it and not only survive, but thrive. We will also teach our children to do the same thing. 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.

Mother/Son Bonding And How Change Can Bring Exceptional Families Closer

It is the morning that Michael heads out to winter camp with his school for two nights and three days. It is his second year going and he is so excited as am I! Last year we were all “nervous excited”. Dad and I knew he would enjoy the time with friends, activities, but worried about his sleeping regime. At home that was still a major challenge last year. But this year his sleeping is going relatively well, he knows what to expect at camp as do Dad and I, and Dad and I have even scheduled in a little late afternoon spa and dinner getaway this year. It is more relaxing all around already due to the familiarity of everything for all of us. What has also been surprising is Michael’s affectionate attitude towards Dad and I the last few days. He has been listening better. He has been calmer. And he was so happy that I was postponing my writing work until after he went to bed to have quality time with him. He said as much.

I think even when we are there for our children in concrete ways, they sense if we are not present spiritually and mentally with them as we are physically. Many children act out in order to get attention from us as they feel like we are tolerating them, when really it is just the opposite. Parents are overwhelmed by so much these days. They barely have the fuel to keep going and often are exhausted. But their kids need to know they matter at the top of the list. I have started showing Michael this in many ways, by taking care to talk to him, spend time hugging and cuddling, and reminding him that he is the top over everything else. In whatever way it works, most parents need to know their child and how to remind them that they matter above all else, particularly before a big change like sleep away camp, a big event at school, or something else that matters.

Exceptional Parents, how do you show your Exceptional Child that they are top in your books? How do you make “special time” with them? It is important to verbally reinforce it with them, and then physically deliver. Stop looking at your phone every five seconds. Guilty of that one myself as charged. When kids feel you are connected to them on every level, they will not act out and test at all or as much. They will know that you, their parent, are there to help them through the next hurdle. Until next time.

How To Balance Motherhood, Work and Exceptional Childcare

Seeing Michael pull yet another bedtime academy award performance for yelling, not listening and rudeness, made me realize something at the end of a very long hour. I absolutely cannot alter anything in his bedtime routine until we get his challenging behaviors under control. It was a question of me needing ten more minutes to finish something for work and he stayed with Dad. He had ten more minutes of the audio visual he had worked so hard to get by good listening. There had even been a nice snack and talking time after school. He had shared news with me about school, though not the details like he used to share until a couple of weeks ago. I had thought things were turning around. I was wrong. He needed the routine to stay exactly the same last night. He needed me to stay calm when he started testing, but all I could think, was NOT AGAIN. He and I were not on the same wavelength last night. We were both tired and not communicating properly.

All Moms and Dads have those days, but if you see you are falling into a pattern in your family of fights, stress, and the same anxieties coming up, it is time to look at your patterns of communication with your child, your partner, and yourself. Our family is going through that now. We have our good days, and our bad days. What is important is to learn from the bad days, to see what changes we could make and to do them. It is important to honestly communicate with your partner about what you and they could do differently and individually. And then, the hardest part. Both partners have to be on the same page and show a united front to the child. Also, both partners have to be open and loving with the child. Authoritarian parenting does not work, and that is where many of us go wrong. We start out loving, present, but as exhaustion and frustrations in us build, we veer to the authoritarian model and who loses, our child.

Being a Mom and Dad is hard work. You have your child, your job, your home. You are pulled in millions of different directions and it is hard to know where to prioritize things sometimes. But at the top of the list is your own self-care. If you are not focused and centered, you cannot handle any curve balls your child will throw at you. Do what you need to do to put things like exercise, sleep and some personal leisure time at the top of your list. If not, it will show in your parenting over time as you reserves of patience and love will run thin. Remember too, as we all tend to forget, that challenging behavior is a sign of something bothering your child, some need that is not getting met in a positive way. When you are both calm, talk to your child about it. Figure out what is bothering them, and then structure their time so they know what to expect.

Exceptional Parents, how do you balance it all and are you at the top of that list of balance? Do you take care of yourself well so you can take care of your child the best way possible? If not, make that change today. Small ways you give yourself care and attention will translate into your parenting, and before long you will be connecting with your child on a whole new level again. Be gentle with yourself. We all make mistakes. Until next time.

Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

Patience Is The Key: How To Dig Deep Down In Your Parent Arsenal

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Patience is a virtue. Once you become a parent, you really realize how you have to ooze patience. You have to live it, breathe it, and practice it. Things don’t always go according to plan. For Michael’s Dad and I, as I’ve said many times in this blog, he has taken us down a path that is not one we thought we’d be on. At times it is brutal. At times it is beautiful. At times, it is spiritual. Michael too is learning from us, good and bad, though lately more good, I hope how to be patient and calm. This is something hard for the adults around him.

So where does this leave most parents, stressed with jobs, housework, family responsibility and personal space? It’s hard. I know it is even tougher for single parents out there. They must shoulder having patience for the child, themselves and life stresses all on their own. I take my hat off to them. It is hard enough to parent with a partner, especially as sometimes you can’t talk to each other due to time constraints (Dad and I), or work responsibilities, but sometimes you clash on perspectives too. However, you can sit down, listen to the other’s point of view and go forward with a united front. This is mandatory for the child and the parents and for the family to survive as a unit. The single parent has to do it all with no break. In this case, finding your extended family (blood and other) is very important for you and your child to thrive. You need a break. Don’t be afraid to reach out if patience is wearing thin in either case. Some strategies that have worked for me to maintain patience or find it again are the following:

  1. Finding 5-10 minutes of alone time every day: This could be through meditation, prayer, sitting in nature, going for a massage etc. You need to connect to you to find your power center again.
  2. Call or meet up with a friend at least once a month: Connections to each other have been known to build immunity, strength, resilience in times of stress. Call up a friend on the phone, meet for lunch, a coffee, a drink and laugh. Oh yes, make sure you laugh as it is medicine for the soul.
  3. Exercise: Walking, aerobics, running. Your body think and handles stress so much better when it is healthy and fit from physical activity. Michael’s Dad gets up early and walks to the bus stop when he can’t make the gym. Likewise I get up at an early hour now to do my workout to recharge for the day.
  4. Watch a funny movie or read a great book: Escaping through a great film, book or reading poetry or looking at beautiful artwork can remind us of beauty that is all around. It’s so important when we are frazzled to remember that.
  5. Spas, baths or swimming: Being in water can recharge us in a way nothing else can. If you are able to, once the kid(s) are in bed, try lighting some candles, putting on soft music and taking a bath. It can do wonders.

 

Exceptional Parents, what do you do to build your patience arsenal? What has and has not worked? Remember, you know your body best, and you need to be at your best to stay strong and resilient for the tough times you will encounter with your children. However, it is also important to stay strong so you can enjoy the beautiful moments and the happy times you will have with your Exceptional Child/dren. There will be many, I promise you.  Until next time.

Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

4 Ways My Exceptional Son Showed Me What I Needed This Weekend

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So it was a crazier than ever weekend. I know, I say this EVERY weekend. But this weekend, in addition to the usual housework and writing work for me, I also scheduled in some Mommy time with  friends for a Hamamm experience on Friday night at a local spa in my area, and finally secured a sitter so Dad and I could celebrate our wedding anniversary together on Saturday afternoon. We were also trying out a new sitter for Michael, and I went to speak at a parents support group Sunday morning. All of these things worked out beautifully, and by Sunday afternoon as I sat down to do my writing work, I was feeling happy and balanced. I realized why. It was due to Michael reminding me what is really important, and for me it was the following: Exercise and time to be just be in the moment.

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In our case it was done through playing tennis in the park on Saturday morning before a torrential rain storm, and two beautiful walks we took this weekend. For you and your child, it may look different. How do you know what you need, and how do you know when your child is telling you to do what you have not recognized is important for you? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to determine what your body needs:

  1. What do you or what does your body miss? Simple, eh? Do you miss exercise, movement, peace, nature? Chances are your child is on your wavelength, and will pick up and suggest this. I was so tired this weekend, but what’s the solution to pick up energy? Exercise right! Playing tennis in the park and doing a nature walk with Michael was just the remedy I needed to keep myself energized.
  2. Alone time in nature: Seeing Michael go off to stim a little more than normal, (his alone time),  reminded me that I needed some alone time too to re-energize. The other night a good friend reminded me how she loves to sit and watch rain. Early Saturday afternoon with the rain pouring down, I had a drink in my solarium looking out onto the beautiful garden outside. I listened to the rain hitting the windows and ground.It soothed me like nothing else and I relaxed thoroughly.
  3. Reading or TV: Yes, watching a favorite movie or finishing that novel is just what we need sometimes to unwind. Seeing Michael reading his books and watching his favorite music videos, reminded me what I needed to get back  some evenings-down time for me.
  4. Time with my partner: Michael asked both his Dad and I about our upcoming family vacation in August, and what we will be doing. We took advantage of our alone time to discuss it, among just being alone as well to catch up as a couple.

Exceptional Parents, how does your Exceptional Child remind you of what you need to do and avoid doing? What about when they seem to know that the outing you are taking them on is just as good for you as for them? My son has a hard time slowing down, and his Dad and I are starting to show him how to do fun things at home. We are able to convince him to stay home with us and do things inside too. Likewise, he has gotten both of us out of our shells socially, and now we explore more places, go on more adventures, and meet all kinds of different people due to him. I believe that children teach us as much as we teach them about how to have a happier life. Good luck in leading each other. Until next time.

5 Ways Exceptional Parents Can Be On The Same Page To Handle Challenging Behaviors

 

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It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind this summer as Michael learns to use his strategies to handle his anxieties while also trying to play Mom and Dad off each other.  While we are happy he has made some intellectual ground, manipulation towards anyone is not a good thing. We both know we do Michael no favors if we let him think he can manipulate due to fear and anger. Dad and I don’t have a lot of time to talk, as a lot of parents don’t in this day and age, even those of neuro typical children. Exceptional children have the added element that in some areas they are a little behind, so the parent who underestimates them thinks that they do not know what is going on. Truly, I tell you that they are superior in more ways than behind, so never think your child is not manipulative in some way. This will help you help them more.

You love them. And believe it or not they love you too in their own way. But it is hard and frustrating to handle negotiations and other issues. So for those looking for new tricks to be on the same page as their partner for dealing with challenging behaviors in their children, here are my 5 suggestions:

  1. Set a time of day when you can talk uninterrupted: This is easier said than done, I know. We tried the other day EARLY am and had  a little visitor come into our bedroom and start the day.:)  So we are back to the drawing board. Even if it’s a 5 min briefing make sure you how to respond when your child tests you with a firm, loving hand.
  2. Use the SODA formula for interacting with your child: I’ve talked about this before in my blog. (www.healyourlife.com).  I have this up on the cork board in our kitchen .Even Michael practices it now.

S top

O bserve

D etach

A waken

Great ways to see behaviors for what they are. You can only tackle something when you are calm and centered yourself.

3. Text each other strategies: Oh yes, this is Michael’s Dad and I. It is hard to talk around a child that senses, knows and seems to see everything. We are thrilled about this, but it makes it hard to touch base. Texting is our best bet, just be careful when they start to read like mine. He tried to read a text I sent to Dad the other day before I gently told him, “sorry hon, that’s private.”

4. Schedule parent meetings camouflaged as dates: Yes, I know it is hard enough to have date nights, but you may need to schedule a few working lunches/dinners to talk about how to handle issues with your child .The alternative is the child playing the parents off each other and stress in the house. A no win situation for all.

5. Involve a Psycho Educator, Psychologist or someone outside to help you and your partner: Make sure to tell your child (if they are worried and threatened), the truth that this person is part of their team, as I have said to my son. (Team Michael, Team Joanne for me etc. ). This person is helping Mommy/Daddy to understand you and ourselves better so we can all live happier.

Exceptional Parents, what strategies do you and your partners use to discipline and handle challenging issues with your child? I would love to hear what has worked and what has not. The most important thing to realize though as with everything concerning your child and family, you go with how you are all most comfortable living, and make sure everyone is on the same page rule wise in your household. It is the only way to grow together and be a happier Exceptional Family unit. Until next time.

 

 

 

 

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.