Category: Tips to help with anxiety

Issues of Control and Needing Love-Michael’s and My Exceptional Journey

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Michael is going through a period of life now where he is asserting himself. He is becoming more independent which I love, but it can sometimes be annoying. How, you ask? Well, he will insist on doing EVERYTHING by himself. And by that, I mean like for instance if I got the food for his snack he would take the food, put it back in the cupboard and get it himself. It is a part independence/part OCD thing, but I am proud all the same. I am trying to teach him though that you can work together with someone in a team AND be independent. That is proving the harder lesson to teach, but we are getting there slowly.

As frustrating as it is when he tests my patience with doing things over, and knowing he can’t swear will say a silly word, I know my little boy is blooming. When I get frustrated, I remind myself of when he was little and I prayed he would be aware of us. Then he was. Then I prayed he would begin talking and communicating, and he did. Then I prayed he would read and write which he is starting to do. The next thing I pray for is for Michael to learn to handle this anxiety and stress and figure out when he can do things himself and when he can ask for help.  I am proud he is communicating stress to me.

Yesterday evening Michael and I navigated baking together for the first time in about six months. It was trying at times and fun at others. All of the time I was reminding him about balance, asking for help or clarification if you needed it, and then telling me he was ready to do it alone if I was still being the protector Mama. I am getting better at stepping away from that role though. I am learning that even if it is harder for Michael or takes longer, he needs to experience doing things on his own by himself. I am proud as I watch him struggle then figure it out. I was not allowed to do this until I was older. It impacted my confidence, and I want to make sure Michael’s confidence gets a boost before his twenties. My parents did their best and what they did helped me, but hindered me in other ways. I hope to teach Michael to fly with confidence at a younger age, and still show him the unconditional love my parents still have for my brother and I now that we are adults.

Exceptional Parents, when do you notice your Exceptional Children pulling away from you to seek control? When do you notice them pushing into you at other times for reassurance of your love in their way? It’s important as you know, to strike a balance between the two, control and love and let them see that by working with you they gain independence and keep your love. Until next time.

Overwhelmed by anxiety? Download my FREE EBOOK: “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” at: www.exceptionalparenting.net under EBOOKS. Fill in the submission form to receive your FREE EBOOK.

 

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Coming Back Home: Church and Nature: My Exceptional Sanctuaries From Stress

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I sat in the Church pews for the first time in two months yesterday. I was alone. Michael was not ready to come back to church. That is a whole other blog post. In this one, I want to talk about how I re-connected back yesterday to something important to me that I had been losing over the summer in the hectic day to day life. What was it? My ability to re-connect inwards with my soul and spirit to get strong for what lies ahead with Michael, and any other life events that are coming my way. It was bittersweet and emotional for me to be at mass alone yesterday, but I needed that time. Lately, Michael has still been having growing pains adjusting to school, homework, and his ever growing need to be on the move and keep busy. His stimming people tell him he has to. I think it is due to all the worrying and stress he carries around in his head. He is literally running from it. That, and the fact as he has told us, mapping out all these destinations on Google Maps means now he has to visit the countless stores and places everyday after school that he has seen. This is part of his love and hyper focus on directions. I am proud yet exhausted, and am slowly trying to find a compromise for both of us. I have told him we stay home once a week this month, twice in October, three times in November, and then in December four days a week, and that I will show him the fun things he can do at home. It has not been easy. There have been tears, fighting and stress on both our parts, but I know we will find a compromise.

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This is why being in church yesterday was so good for me. It helped me remember how to go in ward and find strength to help Michael and myself. The next place I went yesterday afternoon that recharged me, was a park with Michael. While he played, I sat on the bench, and after taking some pictures of the trees and nature around me, I lay back, closed my eyes, and began to slowly heal from the stress of our fights over the last few days, the mental and physical exhaustion of working, taking care of Michael, making time for my marriage, and catching up in my house. I felt my old positive spirit start to emerge again slowly. I was in danger of losing it due to stress and anxiety. And that is when the word hit me: sanctuary. Nature and religion are my sanctuaries and the places I must retreat to when times get tough and stormy.

Exceptional Parents, what are your sanctuaries in times of stress and difficulty? If you don’t know offhand, try experimenting BEFORE your tension levels skyrocket. Try out taking a nature walk or sitting near a body of water, try a new exercise routine or yoga routine, go sit in a coffee shop, do whatever you need to do to heal your spirit. Make sure you show and remind it what it needs to do to recharge so that when things do swirl out of control, you know where to go. I’m sure glad I did, and now I can show Michael to do the same thing. Until next time.

Negative Forecasting And How To Help My Son Over It

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No matter how many skills Michael continues to learn and the intelligence he display daily, there is something he still struggles with and I know will for years to come, anxiety and worrying about the future in the shape of negative forecasting. He comes from a whole long line of us worriers in the family, and as a child and adult who was a huge worrier and is slowly learning coping mechanisms, I feel his pain. As frustrating as it is as a parent when I am trying to make him see to take it one day at a time and he is worrying about one month from now or six, I know what he is feeling as the insecure child. In addition, I am noticing all kinds of tics or OCD type behavior when he is feeling most stressed. He will walk over certain parts of the pavement if he feels he didn’t do something right on our walk, he will tap a wall or light walking passed it. I know these are probably OCD tics, so staying calm and reminding him to relax takes on a whole new level than my Mom had to do with me when all I had was the negative forecasting. We were told by a doctor that medication for the anxiety and obsessions would not be a good idea as it would make some of the other traits of his autism worse. At any rate, we don’t want him taking medication unless there is no other choice. First we plan on exploring many other avenues to help Michael learn to control his anxiety, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy). The school psychologist will be working with him on a weekly basis to help with showing him ways he can relax and handle stress and anxiety.

So how do I help Michael with his negative forecasting? Well, other than the counselling he will be receiving at school again this year, I use tools the Psycho Educator from our community advised last year. These don’t work all the time, but I’m hoping with practice he will learn to walk and move when he is stressed, find a quiet place to cry or get his emotions out, and learn how to talk more about his feelings to me or someone also he trusts so they don’t overpower him. I also have found great tools on sites like Pinterest which have pictograms depicting emotions. I have them up on the fridge for Michael to refer to when he is stressed, and help him learn to express himself easier. He is starting to use these tools.

Exceptional Parents, what has worked for you and your child when handling anxiety and negative forecasting? What kind of tools do you use and what has been recommended to you? All of our children are different, so of course there is no “one size fits all” solution. As with all else, the best thing to do is to look at the problem from your child’s level of understanding and try out different techniques with them to see what works. Above all, having patience and staying calm is the best you can do for both of you as they will learn patience with themselves too. 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. 

When Mom Needs To Stay Home-Exceptional Respite From Childcare

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So two weeks ago, there were a few days when things were a little rough at home. When this happens, Michael usually takes out the worst of it towards me. I am after all his safe haven, and he knows I love him unconditionally whatever he says or does. I have to admit that I was also under stress. The last leg of summer is a tough one for parents and kids. I think he may have felt I wasn’t present for him and fully available on all levels. We were both going through the motions, you could say. So some behaviors began to get worse. We had been planning to have a few fun filled family days. We still managed to have some, but there was one day I knew I had to stay home. I had been gradually losing patience in handling the challenges and broke down crying in the bathroom. I decided Michael and I needed a little break from each other. It ended up being the best thing for us both.

That day I not only caught up on some much needed writing work, but cleaned the house ( a much needed task), and then spent some down time in my yard reading and relaxing with a fiction book. I hadn’t done this in a long time, and I realized, though I talk about self-care to other Moms I had not been practicing as much of it as I needed to at that time. I realized that I made the right choice staying home. It was my Mommy respite that day, so I could be strong for the next few days with Michael before school started. This got me thinking how many times I had mistakenly pushed myself too much to go to his activities, do everything with him, and do everything as a family, out of fear that I was a bad Mom if I needed space. He also needed space from me. He was a little sad leaving the house that morning that I wasn’t coming, but I knew by his previous actions over the preceding days, he needed a son break from me. He’s too young to realize that we all need our space from those we love from time to time.

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Of course he had a great day out with his Dad and his godmother. And you know what? This made me realize that I need to do more of these Mommy respite days in the summer so I can have the energy for the long haul. And Michael needs to be with other people alone, away from me, so he gets to interact in a different way. The other beautiful thing? The homecoming was great. He missed me and I him, and we ended up having a wonderful day the next day.

Exceptional Parents, with school back in full swing are you taking some respite time for self-care and recharging your batteries? It is so important. Think of people other than your partner or family members who would love a chance to play with your child and your child to play with them. Take a break from parenting so that you could come back stronger than ever to the table. You and your child will be the better for it. 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. 

First Day of School: What This Exceptional Mom Has Learned

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Here we are. The day has arrived. It’s back to school today. The summer months pass by so quickly, and each year I find I learn new things about myself and Michael. I learn what we are both made of, and what we both still need to learn about the other one. I have gotten into the groove of organizing his school stuff, and this year like last  year Michael helped me as well. I usually have all his clothes labeled reasonably on time or at least within the first week back. 🙂 What is harder is navigating the stresses and strains that occur during the first week, and even first few weeks back at school. Michael is a good teacher though, and I am learning how to read him better in the last week before school starts. That is always a tough week and this year was no exception.

I  even anticipated the stress that would come the week before school. I nearly made the week before losing my temper, but then again, I’m human. After Michael and I made up over some fights we had, I explained to Michael about how important it is to use our strategies to handle our anger. I got mad at him and myself, but I immediately started to implement my strategies of going off alone to breathe, calm down, and refocus. I am encouraging Michael to go back to his drawing board and find new strategies that work for him too. This is difficult as he is not able to do this on his own yet, and I don’t want to be telling him what to do all the time. That leads to more anxiety and stress for both of us.

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What I am also slowly learning as an exceptional parent to an exceptional child, is just how much guidance I need to give, and how much more I need to step back, let him make mistakes and learn from them. This is hard for any parent, but watching your exceptional child struggle with anger, aggression and stress in general can be heartbreaking for all. We are making progress in that he is talking to me about how he feels. Even if it occurs after a meltdown or fight, that is progress. It is not easy, but then neither is any kind of parenting. I take comfort knowing that every day I learn a little more about my strength as Michael does about his. I also take comfort that my community of exceptional parents is going through the very same thing as I write this, and will have their ups and downs with their child over the course of the next month as children adjust to the new school year.

Exceptional Parents, what have you learned about “back to school” from your Exceptional Children? Are they still teaching you as much as you are teaching them? If so, that’s great. None of us knows everything, and as long as we give our children and ourselves the space we need to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow, we are all on the right path to understanding each other better. Wishing all of you and your children a great back to school! 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. 

 

 

 

How Michael And I Challenge Each Other

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I have tried this summer to give Michael more challenges.  This has usually worked out beautifully, but at other times it has backfired on me. Michael has had to remind me that I don’t understand or that he can’t do it. Sometimes he has been right, other times, with gentle encouragement, I have showed him that he is wrong and can do it. But I am beginning to see the advantages of pushing him a little bit and what I expect of him, as long as he has ways of handling his stress.

Emotions continue to be the difficult thing for him to handle, especially when he gets overwhelmed and frustrated. I am constantly talking with and reminding him when he is calm about using his strategies when upset to handle his emotions, but lately due to the time of year and increasing anxiety about school, he will fall back into hitting himself, hitting me, or screaming and swearing or other inappropriate behavior. The good thing is that he is catching himself more quickly after these incidents, calming down and apologizing, but stopping the overreaction is still too difficult for him. It is a process and one I know he will get through as will I using patience and love.  It’s just a matter of him finding something that works for him. Ever since he was a baby, once Michael understood something, he became an expert at it above and beyond.

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Some challenges I have been asking of him are help around the house, waiting to go places or staying home until late morning, a VERY hard thing for my active kid to do, and teaching him how to initiate a conversation and not to interrupt one in progress. This is also hard. He will often interrupt with an “excuse me Mommy.” It’s all coming though, and I see how he is doing his best. The other day Michael gave me a challenge. He wanted to go for a long bike ride. The route sounded far too long for him to bike, but I decided we would do it as he wanted to try it. I left my bike at home in case he would need some help from me in giving him a push or two. I really did not expect to get farther than another five minutes of our usual route of about thirty minutes. He has not been bike riding consistently this summer, so I figured he would be tired. He actually did the equivalent of an hour and a half! And yes, he was flying down the bike path on a busy stretch near our house. I was the crazy happy Mom jogging along side him marveling how, once again, I had been proved wrong. I was so happy about it!

Michael has always surprised me like this, even though I now know that he is full of wonderful abilities and is wiser than me in some ways. He later confessed he didn’t know if he could do it, but “I pushed through Mommy and forced myself.” He was smiling as he said it. I corrected him by saying he did not force himself, but he pushed and tried so hard he succeeded! I was so proud of him. On the way back home, he said he couldn’t do it, but I told him in a firm voice I couldn’t push the bike home he had to. And so he did. Michael reminded me how important it is to never give up on ourselves.

Exceptional Parents, what challenges do you give your Exceptional Children? What challenges are you maybe afraid to try? Remember, our kids will only be brave if we show them that we believe in them. As parents, our job is two fold: reminding them of what they can do, and reminding ourselves of what they can do. Then, we can show others, teachers, therapists and professionals the amazing things our children are capable of doing. Until next time.

 

How To Plan Out Your Exceptional Family’s First Overnight Trip Together

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Alright wish us luck. We will be going soon for our very first overnight family outing together. In a hotel. The three of us. With Michael’s sleep routine being slightly altered, and all of us sleeping in the same room. I hope it works out, but I am optimistic like never before. We have been talking about it. We will be planning out the two days, one night trip as much as possible in advance, and we will, as always, be bringing Michael’s tools to help him: sensory brush, squeeze or fidget toys, offering him breaks, and using our beloved token system for a reward offered at the end of the day before bedtime. I will also be crossing toes, fingers and any other body part that it all works out.

A friend of mine told me a while ago, “when Mom is ready, the child is ready.” Most of my Mom friends of Exceptional Children have all taken family trips overnight, in an airplane or car, and did what other families did. Not us. Dad and I were not ready. Now we are. I also feel that Michael is ready. He is nervous/excited but older, able to tell us his needs and wants more clearly, and even when we fight or have a rough time, all us have strategies, better strategies to cope. This wasn’t the case a year, two and more ago. Maybe I had strategies, or Dad or Michael, but not all of us had our strategies intact. On that note, here are some ways that are helping our family best prepare for our first overnight trip out of town:

  1. Pack bags in advance with clothes, toys and portable sensory equipment : This is a no-brainer, but really do it as much in advance as possible. And bring clothes, snacks, games, fidget toys, and other tools that will keep your child calm and regulated. Trust your instincts and leave nothing behind.
  2. Bring snacks, water, Lysol and baby wipes IN DROVES: This is important as well. I learned the lesson a hard way a few years ago when we were stuck on a beach and his hands were dirty and I did not have enough of the above wipes to sanitize. Good we were with a friend who gave us some of hers.
  3. Bring jackets, rain gear in case of unpredictable weather: This goes without saying, but bring for everyone. You don’t want to get stuck in a storm and get drenched.
  4. Make sure to have emergency cash and small change: This comes in handy so you can allow the occasional treat for your child or yourself.
  5. Take child’s comfort toys books for bed: Make sure they have what they need to be comfy for as similar a nighttime routine as you can get.
  6. Write out social story and plan out as much as you can in advance: This is important if it is your first time. We are writing out a general plan and allowing for modifications. Michael will make some, we will make some, and we will remind him of unpredictable things that could happen and what he can use as his tools to cope.

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The most important thing to do is be as organized in your bags and as concrete in your plans as possible. Children, all children, gravitate to a steady plan and a steady hand. Mom and Dad need to be on the same page all the time, or do their best to get back there if they veer off. We all do, and there is no shame. Do your best.

Exceptional Parents, how did you handle your first away trip or are you still contemplating whether the family is ready? Whatever you do and wherever you are, remember. You know your child and family best. You know when all of you are ready for the next adventure. Always trust that feeling and adjust as you go along. Until next time.

Are you having a tough anxious summer in your family? Looking for new tools and strategies to handle anxiety, yours or your child’s? Download my FREE EBOOK on 5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

Exceptional Organizing by Drawing Or Writing Out The Day

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Michael’s Day by Michael 🙂

 

Anyone who knows me knows my favorite two words these days-strategies and tools. Why? Well, it’s because my little guy has taught me the value of having good strategies and tools at your disposal whether you are an exceptional child or parent. We all need to have ways to organize our day, our thoughts and what is going on around us. Why should our exceptional children be different? Actually, they thrive with this and it helps them even more.

Many years ago when my son was in an adapted preschool there was a guest who came to talk to the parents at one of the evening workshops. These featured an occupational therapist, a speech language pathologist, as well as a nutritionist. Another evening, it was the father of a son with autism. He and his son were artists, and the son, though limited verbally, expressed himself through drawing and literally drew out his day and how he was feeling. It helped lessen his anxiety and communicate better with his Dad, teachers and therapists. There in that workshop I learned something valuable which I shared with Michael. After pictograms no longer worked, I began drawing stick figures of his day on paper so he would know what is happening. I would insert them in social stories. Then last year as Michael’s handwriting skills improved exponentially, he looked at me and told me he would now write out the day. What started as lines has now progressed to the words you see in the pictures in this blog post. Amazing! He will often ask me what is happening, then proceed to write out the day. It has helped him deal with anxiety, frustration and anger. Last week all I had to say to defuse a mini tantrum, was remind him to write out the day as we had talked about it the night before.

Whatever writing or drawing level your child is at, encourage them on paper to “draw or write out” their day. Michael used to do lines. No matter. As that father taught me all those years ago, they had meaning for Michael and I labeled them:

___________- park

_________-lunch

___________-grandmas’s house

etc. If your child cannot draw or write, do it for them and talk to them about it. Or, if they are partly on their way to doing it, help them hand over hand. You will seen the amazing results in time with this technique.

Exceptional Parents, what tools help you and your Exceptional Child best handle the day? For some, it is pictograms, for some drawing, for some writing. Whatever the method, help your child learn to organize their day. Organize yours in a similar way. If they see you are a creature ruled by good habits, good tools and strategies, that will motivate them to find things that work to lessen their anxiety and stress. 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.

 

Keeping Busy and Learning To Be Calm The Exceptional Way

 

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What is busy? For every Mom of every child with special needs it means a different thing. Every kid with autism is different and has various interests. For Michael, keeping busy means constant motion pretty much all day. It means going places, to parks, pools, friend’s houses, and stores. This is AFTER a full day of camp. This is a challenge for his Dad and I, especially as we get older, but we are learning to structure his activity with time when he is home, and has to keep himself occupied. This is tough for him to do, but he is learning. We also have to find the fine balance between busy and overstimulated. The last two days I crossed the line with Michael, and we had two bad meltdowns and some aggression. The heat doesn’t help, and the fact that Michael is learning that he can’t control everything and everyone around him. It is exhausting and frustrating for all of us.

Still, as with all moments with Michael, there are funny and wonderful moments too. One of these was playing games with Michael in our local pool yesterday afternoon. We were sitting side by side with him in a lawn chair drying off in the sun. Michael said;

“This is nice and relaxing Mommy. I like sitting in the sun. As long as I have sunscreen on it is ok, right?”

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He made me smile. I also thought good, he is learning to relax sometimes. He was finally tired after his busy day of camp, playing in the park, then the pool. He watched some videos after he came home and chilled out. That was nice too. I find that as an Exceptional Parent, each summer, each day really, I am going back to the drawing boardhaving to readjust things so that he is in balance. I find new strategies to help him remain calm, remind him of  his old strategies, and  teach him that it is ok to not always be in control. That is a hard one. I have only recently learned that, and at times, like most adults, still have issues with that one. What I do now, is make sure I am surrounded by family and friends who can understand me and Michael and what we live on a daily basis. I make sure Michael and I have respite from each other on occasion, and that we never go to bed angry with one another. I tell Michael that we all learn from our mistakes, me included. Michael and I both talk about how we need to use strategies to stay calm, and if we don’t, we need to remember to use them the next time we get upset.

Exceptional Parents, how do you juggle the busy and quiet side of your Exceptional child? How do you handle the rough moments during and after they occur? Do you remember to cut yourself some slack and learn from them? Retrace your steps, see what you could do differently next time, and teach your child to do the same. Yes, there will be new battles to face, but you and your child will be able to handle it together as long as you show your child you will never give up on him/her. Until next time.