Tag: overcoming fear

Staying Calm in the Eye of A Tantrum-My Exceptional Lesson from My Son

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It’s been a tough month for Michael and I. We’ve both been adjusting to him being back at school, in routine, with homework. At school, Michael is calm, listens and pushes down his emotions. When I’m boiling pasta for dinner, if I forget and leave the lid on the pot, the water boils over and makes a big mess. This is similar to what Michael does when he is upset, and doesn’t let his emotions out or find strategies to handle them. I have had a hard time finding his latest triggers, and the anxiety with doing things “right” has gotten worse. He is hard on himself when he doesn’t do things perfectly, things don’t go exactly as planned, and this is manifested by the “stimming lady” as he calls her, who tells him he has to do it over and over until he gets it right. With the help of the school psychologist, I am slowly seeing that the stimming lady is essentially a representation of all the adults in his life that make him perform and who Michael feels he is letting down when he does not understand something. Now that it is becoming more clear, I am trying to tell Michael how proud I am of him and give him ways to cope when he makes mistakes. I don’t want him beating himself up and making things worse.

 

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Another thing I am learning is how to truly stay calm myself in the eyes of the storm, which in this case is Michael’s tantrum. They are being defused more easily when I do this, and the few times I have lost my own temper and his anger flared, I would quickly remove myself from the situation. After I thought about what led up to the outburst, what words I could have chosen differently, how much sleep he had etc, I always came back to the same thing. I need to stay calm myself. I need to keep my voice level. I need to not betray how angry I feel, how powerless I feel to see Michael losing control and suffering over handling difficult emotions. And why must I do this? Because I am learning when I am the calm, it reflects back to Michael eventually. He sees I trust him. He becomes calm. He learns he has control.

Exceptional Parents, when your children are upset how do you both comfort and let them find their place in the storm of a tantrum? Anxiety and anger management are just that. It is about being there for your child as co-pilot of the ship, but letting them, the captain, determine the course, for better or worse. That is the challenging part. But the worst thing to do is rush in and save them each time. They need to learn, as we do, that saving themselves will teach resilience, strength of character, and ability to trust their own instincts. . That is what they do for us after all, guide us in trusting our parental instincts. 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. 

 

 

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4 Tips to Handle Exceptional Mommy Meltdowns

I am not proud of the way I have been handling Michael’s stress lately. In part, in large part, it has been because I have not been taking the best care of myself. I have not been sleeping, exercising and eating the way I want to. I have done my best to be present for him, but when I am not at my best physically, mentally and spiritually it is hard.

Our kids are treasures. Michael is not exception to this rule. He teaches me lessons every day about life, love, respect, faith and what really, I mean really matters. But it doesn’t make it easy. For either of us. He doesn’t always understand that Mom needs time alone. Away from him? With her writing? A blog? A friend’s book launch?  A writer’s meeting? Her business? What is this? Then, just as soon as the anger flares up, it is gone. I feel like a failure when I yell, though I know what to tell other parents about patience. It is hard to practice it myself. Still, I do tell Michael that Mom needs to work better on using her strategies to handle anger. It is fine to be angry, but we can’t let it rule us.

Michael is very forgiving. We always make up before bedtime even when we have fights at bedtime. But I hate Mommy Meltdowns. I try to avoid them whenever I can. Still, sometimes in spite of my best intentions, they happen. So here are some tips for other Moms to handle their Mommy meltdowns better:

Tips to Help with Mommy Meltdowns:

  1. Am I sleeping enough? What is happening to cause your sleep to be interrupted? Are you not delegating things so as to alleviate stress? Are you not exercising? Are you not communicating to those around you about your problems? These can all trigger stressful episodes that get worse without you being pro-active.
  2. Are you not making time for 5-10 min of “Me Time” a day: This is especially hard if you have more than one child and/or if you are a single parent. But it is essential. I have one child and a partner, and still there have been times when I tend to get overwhelmed. Take the time for you. You, you partner and/or kids will thank you.
  3. Don’t be overly strict: Yep. As I write these words now, I know this is what I am striving for, yet I still have days and weeks when I fail to practice this. Why? Because it is easy to fall back on what we learned as children. The same strategies do not work for a child with autism. I sometimes need to be reminded of that. If you forget, don’t worry. Just remember for the next time.
  4. Reach out to other parents of exceptional children: I guarantee you. Whatever story you tell to your community of how you badly handled a situation with your child with autism, they will still support you and commiserate. I have been in both positions with my Mom friends, confessing and supporting.My parent community has always rallied  around me (as I did to them), and told me that my child and I are amazing and doing the best we both can. And we are and do!

 

Exceptional Parents, do you have Mommy and Daddy meltdowns with your Exceptional Child/dren? It’s alright. We all do, just as they do with us. We are human, and even if we know better, parenting and being a child is hard work. Forgive yourself, forgive your child, and learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to try new things for you and your child either that will break the dynamic of tension. You will be amazed by the results. 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. 

Finding the Right Tools To Help Your Child Handle Their Overpowering Emotions

 

Man in White and Black Sneakers Standing Outdoor during Daytime

 

So yesterday Michael and I went on a power walk. Well, he power walked. I kept telling him to slow down. I’m in pretty good shape, but late afternoons are not the best time for me to exercise unless I’m alone and can go at my own pace. Still, I saw he needed it. He was a boy on a mission to rid himself of stress. As with other times, he walked and talked quickly, then gradually as he began to relax he slowed down his pace. I was relieved, yet as always, worried about the kind of stress he carries inside of him. Right now the main issues are about working and focusing at school, as well as  learning to sit quietly in a body that has hard time doing that due to his sensory issues. Michael also has a hard time asking for help or letting people know he is in distress.

I am experimenting with different ways to help him learn to calm down. Right now he pushes emotions down and then explodes in the evenings when things don’t go one hundred percent his way. Being told what to do all day is extremely draining and stressful, so at home he bargains and tries to change the rules on EVERYTHING. It’s been a process, and we are still teaching him that all of us have to follow rules, listen to either teachers or bosses, and find ways to manage our anxiety, stress and negative emotions. Exercise, yoga and different sensory tools can help. I am constantly adding or taking away from our toolbox. Talking too and giving him the space to share is also important.

 

Photo by: Frank Mckenna at Unsplash

 

This is challenging for adults, but even more so for kids, and exceptional kids have a more difficult time due to their very complex nervous systems. I remind him that he needs and can always turn to TEAM MICHAEL for help. It’s been tough though. Positive moments have been our talks about music, watching his agility improve climbing on park equipment, and he is interested in going on his scooter again soon. I’m also happy he is continuing with tennis. It, swimming, and soon soccer, will be great outlets for his nervous energy release. As parents, we have to find outlets for our kids. As with neuro typical ones, sports and being active is very important, but there are always other things to consider. Would they benefit from talking to a therapist privately? Do they need a new more structured home routine?  An educator can help with that. Are they sleeping enough? Parents, as teacher, caregiver and therapist have to not be afraid to try any of the above (or all) so that they can give their child the best tools for success out there.

Exceptional Parents, what’s in your toolbox to help your child regulate their emotions? Have you made any changes recently? Sometimes shaking things up a bit can be helpful. Our kids are growing all the time so what worked previously may not anymore. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches. Talk to other parents. Talk to professionals. Read books and articles. Remember, you are your child’s voice to the world and can help explain them to their team the best. In the end, it’s all about giving them success in life to be the best they can be. Until next time.

 

Looking for new tools to help with anxiety management? Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

A Cry For Help: How Exceptional Child Anger Shows Where Moms Can Make Changes

 

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How many times have I wished I could take back things I have said and done. How many times have all of us felt that way as parents. Our children feel it too. Michael and I had had a really tough morning the other day. Lots of factors contributed to it. The routine changed. He had not slept well. And he has been feeling increasingly out of control, probably to adjusting to the demands of school where he has to do things he does not always like. I would like to say that I was one hundred percent present for Michael, but alas, I also have been out of sorts. I have been very busy with work, things in the house, and have been feeling my own nerves fraying at the edges. I have done my best with using strategies,  but the other morning when Michael woke up super early I knew we were both in trouble. Two stressed family members does not a good morning make.

I realized he was upset that we couldn’t plan out our after school time, but I had told him we would look at the calendar after school. Now was not the time. Michael was not happy with that and a lot of emotions had been building up. He started screaming, hitting himself and me, and banged the wall. I could not remain calm myself and started yelling and told him to go to his room. I briskly directed him there. Five minutes later he emerged and went to eat his breakfast. I stayed in the bathroom breathing and calming myself a few minutes longer than stepped into the kitchen to join Michael for the remainder of breakfast. He had let out all his anxiety,  and we talked after apologizing to one another how important it is to use our words, be in touch with how we feel in our bodies, and use these strategies to calm down not aggressive behavior. What is important for parents to realize, even when we are angry, is that anxiety and aggression are a cry for help in our child. They are feeling out of control and powerless. It is imperative for the parent or individual close by to stay calm and collected or as calm and collected as possible. If you fail at that, just own up to it. I did. And it changed things for the two of us from then on.

 

When he came home from school there were hugs for me after I repeatedly assured him I was no longer angry and reminded him that even when angry, I love him very much and never stop. He told he had been afraid to come home thinking I was still angry. I told him I was not, and that he need never be afraid to be home, but that rules need to be followed and respect worked two ways, me and him towards one another. I realized that I maybe had not been as  clear as to what he needed to do that morning. It is something I now remind myself of as much as I do other parents. We all make mistakes once in awhile.

Exceptional Parents, what has lead your Exceptional Children to be aggressive in the past? What was your child doing before the behavior, and what was the consequence for their actions in the past? Also, how have they been handling stress in general in their life? Have they looked to you as the safe port in the ocean? If not, make sure you remind them that you are always there, even with mistakes, imperfections and anything, to love, teach and accept them for all that they are. Good luck parents. You can do it. Until next time.

 

Looking for new tools to manage anxiety and stress in yourself and your child? Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

He Loves Me, He Hates Me- How Our Children Test Their Limits and Independence With Us

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One of the hardest things for a parent to deal with is both a child testing their limits and at the same time needing a parent’s gentle hand and understanding when the parent is on the verge of losing their own patience and temper. Yep. That’s what it has been like at my house lately. A few times I have yelled. Sometimes it helped. Michael took me seriously. He took the limits I placed on him seriously. Other times like the other day, I became a little bit of a control freak and disciplinarian by not picking my battles and really laying into him about small things. Yes, a parent of any child learns to pick their battles. A parent of an exceptional child with autism? You REALLY need to learn to pick your battles or there will be heck to pay. 🙂

I did not choose good battles to pick and now the last few days Michael has been using these “small obstacles” to test me. There was one day everything but go wash your hands became a fight between us. It was mentally and physically draining. It was the same with Dad. Then it all came out. He’s not used to school. He resents his teacher telling him what to do, and instead of using his words and strategies to manage his stress, he takes it out on trying to be a mini dictator with us, where he feels safe and has more control.

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Yes, parents. As frustrating and infuriating as it is, you must be stronger than your anger and see the child’s need. For me, it meant taking some time in nature to recollect my thoughts. Taking time to workout, even a short one when the rest of my house was falling apart, so I could be strong to weather the storm that is Michael. It is hard for him. My beautiful little boy struggles to be understood, to understand. We are lucky to be in an adapted school where he has services. I imagine what it would be like for him in mainstream school where some teachers would instinctively “get him” but others would not. He is considered high functioning due to his verbal ability and his social nature, but there are so many things he needs to be taught and does not understand. It is the same with me. I confess I am sometimes embarrassed by how little I know how much he knows. I am so glad when he opens my eyes. Then there are the times I overestimate his capability of understanding, of coping. And I curse myself again. It’s alright, Joanne. Tomorrow is another day. I know I know him better than anyone, and when I don’t, my son educates me on who he is. We climb that mountain of love together.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle your Exceptional Child’s behavior? How do you cope with their outbursts and your own? Know that however you do it, you are doing your best. In time you will learn how best to help your child who is, like any child, unique and special. Reach out to professionals, fellow parents and most importantly, your child themselves. He/she will show you what they are made of, and let me tell you, our kids are stronger and smarter than anyone gives them credit for. Stay strong, take care of your own health to be there for them, you and those around you, and remember. Life is a journey, not a destination. Until next time.

 

Trying New Things-My Happy Surprise At Michael’s Challenge To Me

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So Michael has thrown me a few curve balls this year, good ones I’m happy to report. This has been nice as there have been the usual “settling into the school year” ones which are a little stressful this time of year. How has he surprised me? He has opted out of an activity he has been doing since he was three years old, a special gym and swim program, saying he was ready for change, AND he has asked to have one less structured activity so he could “explore shopping centers and playgrounds more.” Wow. The exploring more didn’t surprise me that much due to the fact that he loves navigating, but what did surprise me was his wanting out of an activity that has been a part of his life for so long. He was willing to do another swim program, just at a different pool. Dad and I said we were alright with it.

OK, I have to be honest. It was more of a surprise to me how shocked I was that he didn’t want to do this activity. I actually felt a little anxious and stressed myself  that this activity would be missing from our weekly schedule. What does that say about me? I have become even more of a creature of habits than Michael has. I have become as attached to my schedule as he has. It was interesting as at first I fought it a little. So did Dad. We could not believe that he really was fed up, Michael who craved routine, the same structure. It became so interesting to us to see that we were now the ones who needed a little shove in a new direction. Dad and I were so proud of Michael, and we reiterated to him that we are proud of him and know he will do well. At the same time, we also reminded him that if he misses his old swim program we would call up and see if he could go in the winter session or the spring one. We want him to know nothing is absolute and it’s good he wants to try new things. He is beginning to understand that growth only happens when we do new things. Mom and Dad and slowly learning that too. Michael is ever the patient teacher.

Exceptional Parents, when did your Exceptional Child last surprise you by being spontaneous and making a big change? When did they get you to think outside the box? Lots of kids with autism are capable of doing this and enjoying the journey of learning more about themselves as they do so. It’s important as parents we continue to encourage all their exploration in any direction and stay behind them showing them that risk taking is an important part of growing up. 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. 

 

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. 

Late Buses And Stress-The New Way This Exceptional Family Handles The Unexpected

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Michael never ceases to amaze me. He will freak out over things like taking a certain street he doesn’t like, or if I don’t let him choose his snacks. Understandably, he wants control, but sometimes he is really upset over this. His bus coming late this morning and bringing him home super late? For that, he was only mildly perturbed you could say. What set him off? When I told him we wouldn’t have time to go to the park due to the late hour. But after giving him his space and taking mine, he recovered quickly. I am truly amazed at what he is able to start handling, and even when he does get upset, like insulting me or overturning furniture he will look at me or Dad as if to say, “what are you going to do about it?” Instead, we calmly explain, “we don’t hit, scream, insult or throw things when we get upset. Neither do you. Use your strategies.”

The first day of school is always a little bit of a whirlwind what with the bus routes changing and the drivers having to learn a new way to go. Then, there is the fact that we had work being done by the city on our own street yesterday which further complicated matters. Well, that’s life right. I thought how ironic, that it is all happening at once but sometimes that’s how it goes and you have to learn to go with the flow. You have to make the best of it. I tell Michael this all the time. Now I am living it, or doing my best to when I briefly forget my words. Explaining all these changes to Michael was not easy, but he surprised me. He handled it, asked some questions, and then we went with our evening, I went from being a ” bad mother who I won’t hug” due to no park when he got home, to at bedtime, “the best mother I could ever have.”

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Seeing how I handled the unpredictability  yesterday too made me feel pretty proud of me. I had come very far from the anxious type A woman I have been for most of my life. I used to also try and control things, or at the very least, worry compulsively about them. That was my way of trying to feel more powerful in my life where I had felt so powerless in many ways. That changed when I saw how I could have power, peace and control if I learned how to let go. I do this by meditating and living in the moment. Sometimes I stumble, I fall and I get back up. This is the lesson I want Michael to learn. It is important I practice it myself.

Exceptional Parents, how does stress impact your Exceptional Child? What lessons have you learned from teaching your child to handle stress? Don’t worry if there are times you have not set the best example. Apologize to your child, and talk to them about both of you using your strategies to calm down and move on better the next time. We are all human and need to learn from one another. 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.