Category: Tips for Summer 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.

 

Exceptional Rebuilding And Life Lessons Learned

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It struck me yesterday afternoon after a particularly challenging afternoon that Michael and I had both come a long way. He had learned how to bring himself down faster than in the past from his tantrums and meltdowns, and I had learned  not to over-react myself to autism in the summer time. That is what was happening and what happens each year as the summer months are extra challenging for exceptional children and their families. Of course, there are always challenges during the whole year, but there is something about summertime’s lack of structure that makes it that much harder for our kids and hence, us.

The old me would have started to cry, to feel powerless and angry during such an afternoon. The me of yesterday, however, was angry of course for our fight, frustrated at how hard things are sometimes for Michael and I to understand about one another, but there was also this peace inside of me at the same time. It was even there when I texted Dad back after he asked how Michael was doing. I told him about Michael’s rough afternoon, and Dad offered to take over when he got home from work. I thanked him and said he didn’t have to. I could handle it. This realization was huge for me to digest. Michael and I both were using our new strategies to manage our emotions, sometimes with success, sometimes with failure, but we were trying.

Exceptional Parents, what realizations have you come to about you and your Exceptional Children recently? Maybe you have found way to reach them verbally or non verbally as never before. Maybe it is a social breakthrough. Whatever it is, celebrate it. Your child and you have tremendous extra stress in the summer time so pace yourselves and always look for the positives. They are there among the rough times. My child is asserting himself, albeit not appropriately with a tantrum or screaming. My child is discovering his boundaries with people when he tests with challenging comments. My child is not liking certain people, but is at least taking time to socialize. The important thing is to steer them in the right direction and encourage them to rebuild what was torn down, hurt feelings and other issues. Don’t worry. It will be a positive learning experience for both of you. 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.