Category: Tips for Summer time

Surviving and Thriving On Vacation With Your Exceptional Family

It is upon us once again, our family vacation. I am both looking forward to it and worrying a bit, in equal measures, though I have to say, the older Michael gets and the more experience I get handling things with him, the more comfortable I feel as we head out on family vacation. We also do a series of little day trips, followed recently by one overnight trip. It’s exciting and scary, but we manage. We also make sure wine is readily available, but I digress. 🙂 The thing I’ve learned is, to always expect the unexpected, both good and bad. I find that when Dad and I are flexible and go with Michael’s flow on family vacation, we all have a better time. It’s important not to have a concept of a perfect family vacation. That was me two years ago and back. I would always be disappointed when I or one of the boys did not act as I had hoped. Another thing is to try to prepare tools to help Michael as much as Dad and I can PRIOR to the trip. The rest has to be in God’s and the Universe’s hands. If it does not go well, we learn from it. If it does, we repeat it again. Forgiving ourselves and forgiving each other is the best way to make sure we can salvage what we can and/or still have a great time.

Michael loves the predictable day trips, but as he gets older, he also enjoys some novelty. He needs to feel in control with the navigation part. We learned that the hard way about a week ago going to a local fun center. Most of the stress occurred on the drive down, not in the park itself. We also need some down time outside to move in nature. There will be walks, swimming, and some outdoor picnics for sure. Finally, I have learned that I need to make sure I will have my personal space this holiday. That means time alone at night, even the five to ten minutes to meditate, read or write poetry or my fiction.  Self-care is something I am learning more about every day. Every little bit of “me time” helps me do better family time. My boys respect me more when I respect myself, and Michael especially benefits when both his Dad and his Mom are healthy and balanced all around.

This weekend will be about structuring the week on our trusty dry erase board, leaving room for changes and life can be unpredictable, making sure to get enough rest, (you need LOTS of energy on family vacays in our house), and just remembering to breathe and release the negative, and take in the positive whenever we can. I am also learning to trust that God and the Universe has our back. There is always a better way to see things and that is the way I am heading into this family vacation.

Exceptional Parents, how do you do on family vacations? Do you run for them with open arms or dread them or fear them? Remember, there will always be ups and downs, kind of like in life. The important thing is to choose to see the positive and the blessings your child shows you. By living in the moment each day, you’ll have way more fun with your child no matter what happens. Also, remember that when times are tough I always remember Nelson Mandela’s great words of wisdom: “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”  Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with autism has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of the moment! I believe in empowering parents to trust their own instincts when it comes to their children, and in helping them parent with love, respect and confidence towards their child.

For more information on my coaching services, see my website: www.creatingexceptionalparentingg.com, and for a free 30 minute exploration/consultation session contact me at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Also to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” click on www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.

Structured And Unstructured Time During Summer Vacation-How To Strike The Balance

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It’s official. Summer vacation is here and we are in the process of all adjusting to the changes this brings. I am home from one of my jobs or the rest of the summer and available to work around Michael’s schedule more. Michael does not have to be up super early to leave the house with Dad to go to school, and Dad has his personal space more in the am as he can now leave for work alone again. Coming off our first summer long weekend, we also all adjusted to being home four days together and kept busy with family events, local outdoor kids’ festivities, and structuring our home environment so Michael had an idea of what would be happening. This worked well for the most part, though there were some ups and downs which is to be expected when any change happens. Still, our challenge as Michael is growing older, is to make sure we structure what we can, and also allow for some unstructured times. This is good as it will help Michael to learn to be less rigid in his way of thinking. We had great scheduling for him as a baby and younger child, but it only helped solidify his rigidity on routine.

Then we tried in the last three years to move away from so much structure and being overly optimistic at Michael’s ability to communicate and understand, mistakenly tried to under structure his day and tell him he either had to go with whatever we decided on the fly, or we gave him more control than we meant to by giving him too many choices. Sigh. The road to hell…. as the saying goes. So now, we are backtracking a bit on our more laissez-faire attitude and bringing back super structure, but with a difference this time. We are throwing in some which we are letting Michael structure and when there are things out of his and our control, we are working with him on becoming less rigid and stressed. We are showing him by modeling it ourselves that sometimes when there are changes in plans (it rains on a day you wanted to go swimming or a friend gets sick and a play date is canceled) it is ok. We all can learn to roll with the punches and make alternate plans.

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So how can a parent of an exceptional child with autism strike the balance between structure and unstructure during the summer holidays? Here are some things that are working for our family:

  1. Have a visual schedule with the structured plans written down: It’s important to write or draw the events of the day and week down on paper to cover the stuctured part and so your child’s anxiety does not continue to grow.
  2. Talk with child about unpredictability and how they could manage it: This is important as it teaches your child how to handle life’s unexpected curve balls which all children, with and without autism, have to learn to handle. For younger children or if your child is not as comfortable with words or language, drawing simple scenarios can really help too.
  3. Give them some say and decision in what is happening: Don’t give them all the power. For final decision and household activities, remember you the parents are in charge. However, this doesn’t mean that your child cannot have some say in what activities they would like to do or where and who they would like to see. It’s important to give them some choice and control, but it is measured and controlled by the parents.
  4. Take care of yourselves with down time and couple and friend  time: Exceptional parents go above and beyond for their children and this can wear them out physically and psychologically so that they are no good for anyone. Remember to recharge your batteries by relaxing alone and with family and friends. This will help make your summer more pleasant with your child too.
  5. Don’t be afraid to change it up if it’s not working: Finally, if your child is more stressed than happy as you are, it may be time to change your system. This is when seeking outside help is so important. It’s hard to admit as parents when we are struggling with our kids, but  we are human beings after all who make mistakes. We can learn from them as can our kids. Seek therapy for yourself, you partner and your child if you need it.

Exceptional Parents, what is your ideal set up for the summer for your exceptional child and family? What works for all of you? If you are struggling at this time of year, know you are not alone. Many families have gone through and are going through what you are right now. Don’t be afraid to make the changes you need to make so that your child and the rest of your family can become happier and healthier over the summer vacation period. And last but not least, remember to start each day over fresh and laugh together as a family. That will help tremendously in the long run. Until next time.

 

Last Day Of School-How Exceptional Parents And Their Kids Can Stay Sane

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So today is the last day of school for Michael and it was a challenging send off. When he was younger it was the sadness of it being the last day he would be seeing his friends. Now, he is sad that he has to go in and not start summer vacation early even though it starts the next day and continues for 8 weeks. Sigh. You can’t win with kids sometimes. After much directing, fanfare and standoffs occurred, Michael finally left for school. It is hard for exceptional kids when something old is finishing and something new is beginning. Dad also made the mistake of discussing something that would be happening tomorrow and that caused anxiety. I gently reminded him that with Michael it has to be one things at a time on his schedule so he knows what to expect. I will fine tune tomorrow in a schedule for Michael and Dad as I will be at work, and this way they both know what will be happening. Things usually go well, but the first few days of summer vacation are tricky until we have the summer schedule down pat.

Over the years, we have tried various things to help ease Michael from one change to another. Dry erase boards, calendars, schedules of all types. I will be using them this year too, fine tuned with some new tools. As I’ve mentioned before, Dad and I, (particularly me) are learning to talk less and speak very clearly. This has made a difference in not escalating Michael’s anxiety and sometimes even nipping it in the bud. When I see I am about to lose my patience, I will step away and let Dad take over. Dad will do the same. It is hard not to lose your temper when your child is deliberately pushing your buttons. Yet, I see why. He is testing his limits with us, and trying to get control in a situation he feels very little control in, for example going to school when he would rather stay home, leaving behind a toy he is not allowed to take. He is also seeing if Dad and I will stay consistent with the rules we have put into place. Many of them he does not like as he did not have a say in them, but at the same time, I can see he is craving the structure and the facts we have very specific limits placed on behaving in a certain way and getting a certain result. We have given him choices and options for a long time. It worked for many years, giving him choice. Now, in the last year it just ended up causing more complications and anxiety. Michael is beginning to see that he experiences less anxiety when he knows what the outcome of a given action will be. So do we as his parents.

Exceptional Parents, what are your sanity saving busters for coping with that last day of school with your Exceptional Child? How do you and they structure the first few days of summer vacation? Remember, as long as you do what works to decrease yours and your child’s anxiety levels, you are on the right track. Most of our kids LOVE structure so make sure to put as much in as you can. If you have a child that craves less of it, make sure to still have ideas of activities that will appeal to your kids. You will get through calmly to the other side, I promise. 🙂 Until next time.

How To Handle End of School Year Anxiety- Yours and Your Child’s

Over the years end of school anxiety has gotten better. I am lucky that Michael understands what is happening, what he has control over and what he does not. He will always be a kid who worries about which class he is, which teacher he will get, and yes, he will worry about summer camp, even if he is returning to the same one from the previous year. This is not the case this year, but it is all good. Still though, even with this advantage, it is still difficult. Combine that with hot weather usually, and as a parent you have a child who is wired, stressed and hyper. The only good thing about the cool rainy weather is that Michael and I don’t have to contend with that element this year, but the other ones are in place. So what’s a parent and child to do to handle this time of the year gracefully without too many screaming fests? Here are some tips I have picked up over the years:

  1. Make a schedule of the summer ahead of time: Yep, once again write it all down, print it on computer, put it on a tablet or draw/laminate it. You know what works best for your child. And even if they fight you on it, (been there, done that, am currently renegotiating that) say it is for you as well an do it. This removes A LOT of the stress.
  2. Look at the positives: Help your child see the positives at this time of the year: playing outside when weather is nice, field trips, end of school parties/bbq’s etc.
  3. Have a reward system set up: This is good if there are lots of behaviors. If they have something positive to earn by end of the day, it will change their mindset.
  4. Talk or don’t talk: Some kids feel better talking about their stress. For others, this only feeds it. Find out where your child fits on this continuum and do the one that will put their fears at ease. Set aside a time each day to talk without interruption. For those that get overstimulated and anxious with too much talking, set a time limit and boundaries. We will decide that on this day. I will give you an answer etc.
  5. Lots of physical activity and movement: Have them move around a lot doing sports, going to a park, jumping on a trampoline. This will let them handle a lot of the anxiety that comes with pent up energy.

Exceptional Parents, what are some of your words of wisdom for dealing with your child’s end of year anxiety? Remember, for everyone the techniques may be slightly different and need to be tailored to your unique child. Also, don’t despair if they do not work right away. Any new system (behavior or reward) takes time to take effect and for the house to get used to doing things a certain way. Have patience, take care of you, give your child a chance to adjust and together you can both face the summer with optimism. Until next time.

Beaches, Waterparks and Picnics: Final Stay Cation Unwinding as A Family

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So this weekend we are planning the last of our family staycation trips as it is, well, the end of our family vacation. I have been working in between and Dad has been running errands, but for the most part, it has been family or Mommy/Daddy time with Michael.  The beach should be fun as it always is. We eat out in the sunshine, frolic in the water (ok it’s more of me chasing Michael down the beach or in the water and beach), and then we head home. This year he has his last soccer game and an awards and dinner party in the evening as well. It will be a long fun day to be sure and one I know we will all enjoy. We are also planning a trip to a local zoo and splash park as well as a family picnic in a beautiful area close to our home. Michael loves being outside in nature and enjoying the simple things. This gets easier as he gets older.

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What I love is how we can do more of these things now as a family that he is older and Dad and I worry less than we used to. We need to structure as much as we can and go over strategies so Michael does not get overwhelmed, but he understands what is expected, has a higher tolerance for staying somewhere longer than before, and is surprisingly easy with changes like moving an outing to a day when it is not raining. A couple of years ago there would have been meltdowns and screaming. Now, he is calm and handles it beautifully.

We are trying to get him involved in picking more active things to do as a family, sports, walking and it is paying off. Michael and I have gone for some long walks, bike rides, and Dad has taken him to a few parks. We are all slowly winding down to the end of the week when routine and structure will slowly be put back into place to our relief, and though Michael is complaining about school, it will help him as well.

Exceptional Parents, what plans do you have for the last weekend before back to school? Are your kids excited about school? Are you? As long as you have been discussing the transitions and preparing them as best you can, you will not go wrong. On the other hand, some kids will do better with a little less prep. It will mean less to worry about. You know your child. You know yourself. Trust in what works for your Exceptional Family. 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. 

Annual BBQ’s and Exceptional Traditions

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I love traditions. I love the way they mark time, passages, and growth. I also love the way traditions bring family and friends together. Michael’s Dad and I started a tradition a long time ago with close friends where we all get together once a year at our house for a BBQ lunch or dinner. It has shifted back and forth, but now it is back to a dinner so friends of mine who have smaller children don’t have to worry about their kids missing their nap, and my other friends with older children and activity commitments can still make it. Still, the friends of mine who don’t have children also have the opportunity of squeezing our dinner into their busy schedules. As a result, we’ve pretty much had everybody make it every  year for the past eighteen years that we’ve been doing it. These are friends I grew up with. We knew each other as girls, then women, then husbands and now children are in the mix. It’s absolutely wonderful.

For Michael, he is also learning about how important friendships are, and about the building of traditions to keep friendships going and moving smoothly into changes that occur in life. These friends are his aunties and uncles so to speak, and he gets along well with their kids. It’s always a fun way for us to end our summer with this BBQ. Now that Michael is older, he actively helps us prepare by buying the food, and tidying up a bit. Alright, he cleans his room, but still it is a start. 🙂 I am so proud of how far he has come from being overwhelmed by people, to looking forward to a party, even though there are challenging moments for him.

Exceptional Parents, do you have any summer time traditions that you participate in with your Exceptional Child? How do they respond? How do you respond? Remember, give them time to grow to love these traditions and soon they will begin to change their response to them. It also gives you a chance as a family to grow together, try new things, and form new memories. Until next time.

 

Nature Walks and How to Make Your Child’s So Called Obsession Work for Your Family

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Michael loves directions. I have blogged about this countless times already, due to several factors: It sometimes drives me crazy and I need to vent. It is a new skill we are proud of encouraging. AND in today’s blog post, it is something Dad and I are incorporating into our family vacation this year. Yes, you heard me right. We are using Michael’s love of directions to get him to do a longer nature walk with us in one of our favorite parks near our home. Michael loves to walk around our area, and likes to point out the various streets and intersections. Why not combine this skill with the whole family having a nice morning walk in the fresh air followed by a picnic outside later on? So this is what we are trying. And this year, Michael is excited about it like never before. He wants to walk and navigate, and I’m happy to say, he may even develop a love of nature along with it. This is an example of a simple day trip we are doing to keep things fun.

How many parents don’t acknowledge their kids’ obsessions or run from them? It’s a stretch, but there are sometimes ways to incorporate what they love and embrace family activities at the same time. For example, do you have a budding chef? So if you can take him to one of those restaurants where they cook the food right in front of you. Do you have a child who is obsessesed with blocks? A trip to a Lego museum or an architectural exhibit where building is discussed could pique their interest. A kid who is obsessed with history, planets, water, sea creatures? There are aquariums, zoos and tour. Yes, that is something else we are looking into for Michael. Doing a walking tour. The only problem I worry about is Michael trying to take the microphone away from the tour guide and take over, but I digress.:)

Exceptional Parents, do you often hear from professionals who discourage you from attending to your child’s obsessions? Does it make you feel sad as that is a connection you can bridge with your child and you feel like you aren’t taking advantage? I agree with that line of thinking. And by obsessions I don’t mean anything dangerous or violent, but I think that any co-called obsession can be turned into a passion and used to connect kids to caregivers and the outside world. Once that happens, everyone benefits and the child can truly show his/her intelligence and exceptional abilities to the world. Try it. I’m sure it will only yield to positive things once you and your child meet at their area of interest. Until next time.

 

How To Plan For Success On Exceptional Vacations

 

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We have been doing family stay cations for years, probably as long as we have been taking Michael places.  I have finally come to the point where I now expect the unexpected from Michael and spin it for a whole new day. Dad has experienced the same thing. And you know what? Sometimes things end up being more fun as a result of this.  We have had some struggles in the past when we first started going away. Michael would need mini breaks for the people and noise which we had not anticipated. He would get overwhelmed and we would have to go. His Dad and I had a hard time at first  dealing with outbursts and things out of his control. We eventually learned to anticipate what set him off and that helped tremendously.

As Michael matured, so did Dad and I. Now we know how to go with flow more where Michael is concerned. As with everything else, Michael is raising us and exposing us to different things and ways of experiencing how to have a good vacation, or at the very least, one that has no dull moments. We are doing our usual series of things, thrown in with some new adventures for good measure. Michael likes his predictable places, and is excited to try new things and drive to new places. We have mapped everything out on our dry erase board, and Michael purchased a notebook where he is writing down all our activities too. Like me with my phone calendar, this way of keeping track, Michael’s calendar if you will, helps keep Michael calm and organized. Whenever he is stressed, I direct him to the dry erase board to see what will be happening. If we need to make an adjustment, that is where we go too together to do it.

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The most important thing I remember every year, is to make the week simple, fun, and memorable for Michael and us. We do a variety of the old and new, and we make sure not to do things that are out of our budget. You don’t need to spend tons of money to have fun. Kids like the simple things and time they have with Mom and Dad. For Michael, going to our local Santa’s Village and having pizza for dinner is a dream come true. For Mom and Dad too. Who wants to come home from a long drive and a fun day on our feet and cook. 🙂 We create memories of fun times together, that I hope one day Michael will enjoy remembering and telling friends and maybe a partner and children of his own. 🙂

Exceptional Parents, what activities do you like to do on family vacations? Do you do stay cations or vacations going away out of town? Do you take a vacation alone or with the kids? For some parents, it is too hard to go with kids out of town due to sensory issues, behavior issues, or medical ones, so they do activities in town and then go off on their own for a night or two. Some stay home with kids and just do a stay cation if that works better with their family and financial situation. The most important thing to remember is to do what is good for your family and child. There are so many fun things you can do if you use your imagination. Whatever you do, just stay true to your family. Always do what works for everyone in your immediate circle. Until next time.

 

How To Transition Smoothly from Day Camp to Mom Camp

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So here we are. Today is the last day Michael has day camp. As of next Monday, he is home with me for one week then we have our family holidays together with Dad. I am nervous/ excited as Michael would say. I am nervous because I know there will inevitably come a time when Michael will be bored, a friend won’t be available for a play date, and we will have to improvise. This will be a little challenging. However, I am also excited because Michael and I know how to communicate so much better. I know what he needs to stay busy, and that is structure to our unstructured time. So, as I blogged yesterday, as much as is possible we plan out the week on paper, with rain plans if we can’t be outdoors, and the last two years it went reasonably well. Last year, I only felt the pinch of stress near the end of our week home alone together, and then Dad was home and BOOM another change which we navigated well, the family vacation. But more on that in another post. 🙂

What also makes me excited is that I have finally figured out something my wonderful previous therapist said, “what do you need to do to be at your best.” What I need to do is meditate, exercise, have time alone and time out with friends and my partner to stay focused, calm, there for Michael, me and everyone else. Now that I am whole, I see things so much more clearly. I see how Michael and I can handle challenges, behavior and anxiety better, and what he needs to feel calm and in control. I have found the following techniques work to help from the transition of day camp to Mommy camp as I call it.

How To Transition from Day Camp to Mommy Camp:

  1. Start talking about the end of structure: I always start talking with Michael about the end of organized camp mid week of his last week. We start brainstorming for activities.
  2. Actually talk concretely then write out the week: This has helped Michael and even me to structure our home time. For example our week next week looks something like this for the first few days: Monday- Mom works 8:00-10:30/ Mom and Michael play tennis 11-12/ Lunch 12-1/ Cleanup 1-1:30/Pool or  park and shopping 2-5 pm/Home to cook supper 5-6.
  3. A week or so before start organizing play dates or formal activities: I called up two friends. One booked a play date with us, and the other one is getting back to me. Michael also reminded me of two friends we could potentially see. I will call the Moms up this weekend and see if they are free to get together.
  4. Involve the child with helping with chores: This is a toughie, but I am trying now that Michael is older to involve him in helping me around the house so things go faster for our mother/son time. We talk in advance about it, and if he really wants to chill out, I tell him it means we’ll have less time to do stuff as I need to finish the housework AND my writing and other business work since I work from home.

Exceptional Parents, how hard are transitions for your Exceptional Children? It’s a challenge for all of our kids, but something necessary they need to learn to navigate. The best way parents can help prepare them, is to structure activities by writing things down, asking the child what he/she would reasonably like to do, and delivering what you reasonably can. You also have to allow them personal downtime, as well as making sure they understand that you need some downtime as well as time for your work. If you are honest, start in advance BEFORE the change occurs,  and you make sure your child is aware of what is coming, your chances of a successful transition from an organized activity to home look much better. Until next time.

 

 

5 Signs You Have Reached Your Limit As An Exceptional Mom

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It’s summer. Contrary to what most people who don’t have children experience, it is usually a slightly more chaotic time for parents. If you are an Exceptional Parent, add on a little more stress due to routine being off for your kids, and children feeling a little more lost due to not having the school framework. This goes whether they are home schooled or go to an outside school. We are at the halfway mark of summer now, and a lot of parents are running out of steam with keeping kids busy or defusing tensions, theirs and their children’s. But how do you know you have reached your limit? Here are 5 signs:

  1. You lose patience over the little disobedience: When your child tests you, such as refusing to do a chore, put on certain clothes, bring their plate to the sink, or anything else reasonable you have asked them to do, you yell your head off. Take a deep breath, steps back literally and metaphorically, answer in a firm, calm voice, and start again.
  2. You start counting down till school starts: Yes, I have had those days. This week was pretty much a week like that. 🙂  When I catch myself thinking this way, I ask myself: What have I done for ME lately? If I can’t think of anything, I schedule in some me-time whether it is a walk, a massage, a workout, or time with a friend.
  3. You seem to have no energy for the basic things: Time to look at your pace: Are you sleeping well? Are you eating and exercising? Are you asking for a break from family and friends?
  4. You feel sad that you haven’t__________(fill in blank): Sometimes it is as simple as finishing your paperback book, watching a favorite tv show, calling a friend, having a girls/guys night out with your partner. Make sure you schedule it.
  5. You feel stressed all the time even when child is occupied: You need to find ways to calm your mind and soul, have a laugh, and then keep the strategies you used to calm down in mind for the next time.

I had a day yesterday when everything went exactly the opposite of how it was supposed to go. I was SO upset, then I remembered going with the flow. I teach this to Michael. I had to go to the Dollar store to buy something, and two coffee mugs got my attention.(the picture above).  I don’t often make impulse buys, but for a grand total of $5.00, I figured I could break the bank this one time. 🙂  They are one of my favorite colors, red, they are big, and they have two amazing sayings on them that reminded me of what is important. I christened the “Keep Calm One” with my first pm cup of coffee yesterday. And you know what, by end of day I had the first conflict-free afternoon with Michael in awhile AND we had a beautiful experience happen at our public pool. More on that in tomorrow’s post. 🙂

Exceptional Parents, how are you holding up under summer’s strain? How do you “check in” with your inner self? I would love to hear what you use. I think as long as you are being honest and non judgmental of where you are, you will get to the next stage; peace, acceptance, and moving forward. Keep calm and move on, my friends. Until next time.