Tag: personal growth

Autism Is A Gift That You Help Your Child Unleash

I was warned that one day Michael would catch up on many of his milestones. I was even told that he would zip through developmental stages, and start to catch up to peers. I was told the process could be accelerated. I knew this logically, but emotionally on weeks when my little genius is driving me crazy like this week, it is harder to take. Yes, there I said it! And that means a lot. As a writer and artist as well as a parent coach, it takes a lot for me to say that another human being is driving me crazy when, well, ask my friends, I’m pretty crazy myself. But you see, that’s what I love about me. I love that I don’t adhere to someone else’s definition of happiness. I love that I don’t  try to fit in and be something I am not anymore. I did that for twenty odd years. It led me to two depressions,  self-hatred, and caused to try to live someone else’s version of what my life should be. Like many people, I found out that I was not only my own worst enemy, but also my own prisoner and  only I could unlock the door to my cell. What a relief to be out in the open now.

This is truly the artist in me speaking. I also love how I am seeing that it is when I think outside the box, when I color outside the lines in my own life, that true beauty and happiness is found. I feel I am truly being me, and I’d like to think, I can help others be truly them, as parents to their exceptional children and as individuals. Michael is the one who finally freed me completely. My writing and poetry started the process, and is basically what kept me sane in those twenty years. Michael completed the project and continues to help me see I am on the right path. His inner beauty, his light, shines through on all the darkness in the world.  I know it is hard soul work parenting a child, any child. One who has autism means that as a parent we need to do extra soul work, and be extra gentle on ourselves. Only then can we give our children what they need to grow.

Exceptional Parents, are you both amazed and frustrated by your Exceptional Children on some days? Do you sometimes scream to the heavens, why me? I can’t do this! I can’t be the parent he/she needs. They are amazing and they need someone stronger, better, wiser.  Well, guess what parents. You are the right parent. You know your child, for better or worse, and you know what they need when they need it. Take a break once in awhile to recharge your batteries. Step away from parenting to see more clearly. Ask for help and support. But never give up on your child or yourself. They have  amazing potential, all of our children, and your job is to discover that potential and help unleash it on the world. But first parents, you need to find your own potential, your own light. You have it. And when you find it, you will see how it will get you through the rough times and you and your child will persevere. Until next time.

Being Thankful in Difficult Times

Being thankful for blessings among difficult times is an art. It’s something that Michael has helped me perfect over the years as I have him. We are both struggling right now to understand each other, but we are also taking time to communicate better. Sometimes it works out, other times not so much. Still, the fact that we are trying is making the difference and that is helping.

On Thanksgiving, I have taught Michael that we must count our blessings, be grateful for health, family and love, and when we have struggles, that we tackle it calmly together one step at a time. Yesterday morning we had a nice long talk about religion, feelings, and the morning went well after that. The afternoon had its challenges, but now I see that at least he and I were calmer so the afternoon went better than it would have in the past.

Today we will be doing a nice quiet Thanksgiving lunch. The menu will be a little different due to a mistake on my part, but no matter. The important thing is that we are together, we are healthy and we have love. That is the true art of Thanksgiving and practicing being grateful and mindful and living in the moment with your blessings.

Exceptional Parents, what do you have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving and every day? What blessings have you counted or forgotten to count during difficult times with your child? If you have forgotten to practice gratitude, there is always today to start over. Teach your child to do the same. A thankful heart is a heart that can forgive and move through difficulty more easily. Until next time.

Feeling overwhelmed by anxiety? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK ON “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here at: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

Exceptional Love, Testing and Suffering: How to Weather the Sun and Storms of Parent/Child Relationships

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I don’t know what to tackle first. There is his insistence on being right, his worrying over the future, and his putting his foot down on what he wants to do and does not want to do. It is so frustrating as this is also my list and my issues too. It is hard as a parent. You have to pick your battles, stay firm, give in, and at other times, walk a tightrope somewhere in between with your child. Any child. And an exceptional child is just exceptionally challenging at times like these.  We had many fun moments yesterday, but this week there have been many more testing moments, angry moments, and moments where Michael, I could tell, was seeing how far he could push before I gave in. I pretty much stayed firm, but there have been some activities I have had to remove from his schedule. They have been academic ones, as the pressures in school have been proving to be too stressful for him lately. I feel like I have failed as a Mom. I have failed to hear him and listen to what he needed, choosing instead to challenge him. But see that’s the thing. That is what worked in the past. My little boy is changing. He is growing up and I have to be ready for some surprises. Though it has been hard, I am coming to terms too with the fact I cannot control all circumstances, all things, all life. I have to admit defeat and errors where I have made them and carry on. That’s what I tell other parents to do. Forgive yourself and move on. It is hard for me to do though. However, I am finally starting to do it.

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I am so glad that he is able to communicate so well with me about his feelings of  stress with school performance (though he is doing amazing), his anxiety over pleasing the “stimming lady” (I think she represents adults all around him that he is trying to please),  and I can see how even when he is engaged in pleasurable activities, the ability to control, predict and anticipate everything come into play everywhere. He is such a smart kid. He is so happy and full of life in so many ways, yet I see his suffering, his anxiety, and his insecurities. I don’t know how to reassure him he is enough. I tell him. I show him by hugging, kissing and laughing with him. But due to my own busy schedule, there have been times I think I have failed him. I have failed to give him the security, patience and support he needed as I have been tired, busy, stressed myself. I am re-emphasizing self-care again in my repertoire so I refill my own bucket. Love and support are a two way street, but they are ones that are difficult and challenging to follow when both parties are exhausted and at their wits’ ends.

Exceptional Parents, how do you weather your child’s storms and anxieties while staying sane yourself? If you have lost your temper and patience once in awhile, that’s ok. So have I. So have all of us. The important thing is to remember how by taking care of your needs, physically, mentally and spiritually, you will be able to show your child how best they can have balance in these areas. They need to learn to take care of their inner stresses before they can balance their outer feelings. Until next time .

 

Feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxious thoughts? You are not alone. Parenting is hard work. Try out some new tools. Download my FREE EBOOK ON “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net.

How Embracing Failure Has Made Me A Better Mom

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Failure. Who would ever label that a positive word, but still it can be. Why? Only when we fail and fall down, can we rise and learn from our mistakes, new ways of being and doing. I used to be so hard on myself when I would come up against challenges with Michael in the past. Now, I see that it is not me failing him, but him needing to learn the proper tools to help himself handle failure, obstacles and stress. Life is not easy for him. Life is not easy for any of us. Most of us though know how to regulate our emotions though, and look to others for our cues. For exceptional kids, this is hard. They have a more difficult time relating to people and what people are saying. Still, when I have failed in reaching Michael, or in losing my temper it has shown me something amazing.

It has shown me what I need to work on to be stronger, more compassionate and a better all around human being. It’s not that I am a bad human being when I fail. None of us is. It’s just that I have temporarily lost touch with what I need to be working on, honing my energy in taking better care of my internal compass and inner workings, so I can model that for Michael. And believe me, even though I know what I need to do to keep the balance in my life, I still sometimes fall back into old habits of ruminating, worrying, getting angry when I can’t control anything, all the things I tell Michael to not worry about. I re-learn the lesson the same time I am teaching it Michael. I also learn that it is alright to be vulnerable, ask for help, as well as offer help at the same time. It is alright to be human and to teach Michael the same thing.

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While I have been finding new ways to reach Michael and keep my own spirits strong while navigating new challenges with him, I have also had the privilege of supporting other Moms in their journey. And a privilege it is. While I help them, they help me. Just as while I help Michael, he helps me. And we all heal. We heal from the need to be perfect, untouchable, fearless. We are all afraid sometimes. We are all brave at other times. Life is a roller coaster. You can choose to ride it in full glory and brace yourself as best you can with the ups and downs, enjoying the ups and knowing you’ll figure out how to handle the downs when you get there. Or, you can choose to not ride it, fearing the downs only. As each day goes by, I know I will sometimes have down times, stressful times, times when I feel weak. But I know it is temporary and will pass. The up times are coming, and I will have what I need by then to coast beautifully. This is what I now teach Michael too.

Exceptional Parents, how often do you fail as parents, as human beings? If it’s often, that’s good. It means you are human. It means you are trying. It means you will find the tools if you search and look in your heart for them. They are there. As we tell our children, they are perfect in their imperfections and so are we. So don’t worry. Treat your failure as a gift. Let it take you to new heights and help you overcome hardship. Let yourself and your child soar. Until next time.

 

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

4 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. 

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. 

Exploring Old Places In A New Way-My Exceptional Son’s Thirst for Going On Walking and Driving Expeditions

 

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I love Michael. He is tireless, has lots of energy, and has a sense of adventure. Sometimes as his Mom, I don’t want to go places after school. It is late afternoon. I am tired after a long workday, plus the fact there is tons of stuff to be done in the house. But for Michael it is boring being home. He is not a child who likes to play with toys. He has always been more interested in people and places. This is a good thing, but I also have to be careful to remind him of the rules of social etiquette when we are out: no kissing or hugging strangers, no talking too loudly, stay close to his father and I. You know, basic rules that most of us know. These are hard for kids on the spectrum to grasp at first, but once it is explained to them, they never forget it. Still, going on our “adventures” as Michael has called them, has taught me a lot about myself, about being spontaneous and about  seizing the moment. Ironically, it took my exceptional son who is so focused on routine and predictability to teach me that. But taught me that he has, and now , I look at our adventures as a chance e to try something new and show Michael that embracing the unknown can be a fun thing.

The last few days we have been taking long walks around our neighborhood. It has been a good workout for both of us, and I know for Michael it has been extremely helpful in getting him to work through the stress of adjusting to school and its responsibilities. Sometimes we will be silent on our walks and sometimes we will talk. I let Michael set the tone. It has helped me see him in another light. He also gets to have some control when he will tell me what streets are where and show me the different twists and turns we can take in heading home. Of course, I always make sure we agree at home on the route. Once we got into a fight as his definition of a short walk and mine were not the same. So now, we go through the itinerary beforehand. And it has been successful.

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It is the same when we drive to stores. Michael loves to explore in the Dollar Stores. He equally loves small second hand shops and bookstores, and is happy to window shop and browse seeing where everything is and learning the ins and outs of the store. It is fun as through him, I will inevitably see things I took for granted before, I maybe didn’t notice on the shelves or racks. He is a very keen observer and takes me by the hand showing me all the things there are. It becomes an adventure of learning for both of us and I am always excited to share in these trips with Michael. He is teaching me as much as I am teaching him.

Exceptional Parents, what adventures have you gone on lately with your Exceptional Children? How have they helped you see the world differently? All our children have a unique way of viewing events that look mundane to us. Let them carry you away to that realm of excitement, and see how their faces light up when you are present with them sharing it. That is what real growth is about for both of 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. 

 

 

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. 

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.