This has been an interesting few months for Michael and I. He is learning new ways to test as a young preteen, hormones raging pushing me away as he is a “big boy,” and at other times trying to pull me in close telling me he is “a little guy, a baby.” Both descriptions are not completely accurate as he is neither completely an adolescent or completely a little boy. He is a mix of the two, and he rides that mix well. There are times it is funny, such as when he doesn’t like what I say and will tell me, “You’re not the good parent now. I can’t wait for Daddy to come home”, or when he is really upset and cursing or becoming aggressive towards us and himself due to frustration and stress. It is a learning curve for him and us, and we are slowly learning to ride that curve the best way we can while all keeping our balance.
The first thing I and many special needs parents learn with handling challenging behaviors is to remain calm and collected. They tend to exacerbate when the parent wigs out and starts yelling too. So I have learned not to join in on Michael’s chaos, and remain as calm and detached as I can. When I have had an off day or am closing to losing it myself, I excuse myself and tell him I am going to my Mommy calm corner as I have mentioned before. Fortunately, this happens less and less as I have learned better strategies for managing my stress too. It is a challenging time for any child when they are at the crossroads of leaving childhood behind and embracing adolescence. There is so much going on in their minds and bodies. Parents need to be patient and help guide them as best as possible. Autism makes it all that much more difficult to guide at times. What is working for me are the following techniques:
- Reminding child you are there to listen to them or staying close even if they don’t want to talk.
- Redirecting them to use their “calm down” techniques like fidget toys, various sensory equipment, and yoga or deep breathing or any form of exercise.
- Talking about how they could have handled the feelings better afterwards. This works for adults too.
- Setting limits on negative behavior in a calm and gentle way- Do not tolerate hitting, screaming, biting, swearing. And try not to use “taking things away” too much. If you have a token system stay true to it if it is helping the child.
- Look for signs of physical issues- i.e. upset stomach, loose baby teeth, muscle pain, virus etc. All of this can affect behavior.
Exceptional Parents, what changes have you noticed with your Exceptional Children when they go from one age to another and achieve one milestone only to be frustrated at the next stage? What techniques do you use the have worked and which have failed? As with many parents, I’m sure you have learned through trial and error how to put the best foot forward. Remember, stay calm, stay in the moment, and remind your child that you love and are there for them always. Until next time.
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