I work with families who are wonderful. I love the kids and the parents. The parents I get to meet through my work are friendly, kind and generous. They are playing many roles in life : they are brothers, sisters, professionals and friends in addition to being special needs parents. I am so lucky to get to know them through our work together for their kids.
These wonderful people are also sometimes stressed. Very, very stressed. This is completely understandable. They are handling so many different things and autism is just one of the things on their list.
Each day is a new day. We greet each other with smiles and laughter and “bonjours”. Some days, I see it on their faces when they arrive. It was an especially hard weekend, their child has a new particularly challenging behavior, both parents are not in agreement about how to handle a specific child-related situation, their child is not sleeping… The possibilities for stress are endless. In these case I just want to (and often do!) give these parents a big hug. Their job is so hard. Ridiculously hard sometimes. My heart goes out to them.
In these moments, I coach families on how to handle behaviors, sleeping, difficulties eating, lack of communication, struggle between parents, whatever the issue may be. We go over data sheets and I remind them of how far their child has come.
In addition, I also try to lift their spirits by focusing on the general good. What was good this past weekend? What did your child do that ws absolutely, breathtakingly amazing today? How many words did your kid say last week? Although you don’t agree with your partner right now, remember the last time he or she was really there for you – 100 % present – loving you and encouraging you.
Everyone forgets sometimes to stop and savour the moment, to appreciate the good. We all need constant reminders to do this.
In the midst of tantrums and picky eating and IEPs it can sometimes be even harder to remember to seek joy, focus on the good, appreciate the little moments and let go of the rest – just for a moment, just long enough to breath easy and relax.
Kiss the people you love. Tell them you love them. Breathe in the beautiful moment.
When everything gets a little too out of control, and you have a little too much responsibility and want to just hide in the closet with a cup of coffee, that is your signal : come back to the present moment, calm down and let go.
I am working with some parents that have learned to do this surprisingly well and I am in awe of them. They are doing such a remarkable job handling everything and still finding time to connect with each other, connect with their kids and somehow, laugh together along the way.
Here are 24 ideas to calm down and reground yourself (the special needs parents version)
1.Kiss your spouse (for atleast 15 seconds). Research has proven that kissing for 15 seconds has wonderful health benefits. This is definitely a study to participate in!
2.Have a cup of tea. Who doesn’t feel better after a cup of tea?
3.Go over your child’s past programs and data sheets and pat yourself on the back knowing that all of that progress is, in large part, due to you and everything you do for your child.
4.Ask you spouse to watch your child so that you can pamper yourself. Put on some music, take a bath, drink a glass of wine, relax.
5.Keep a gratitude journal. Every time something great happens (no matter how big or how small!) write it down. Re-read your gratitude journal in difficult moments – reading about all of your amazing family moments and memories in one place is sure to make you feel happy and lift your spirits.
6.Go outside. Move around. Take your child to the park or for a walk. Everyone will feel better after getting some exercise.
7.Have a special night with your spouse. After the kids are in bed, talk, watch a movie, cuddle. The cuddling is the most important part – you will both feel connected and loved through the power of cuddling.
9.Watch a romantic movie. I love The Notebook.
10.Surprise your spouse. Planning a sweet surprise will make your spouse feel great which will also make you happy!
11.Do a sensory activity with your kiddo. Children with autism are often soothed by sensory activities. Heck, so is everybody! I love playing with our sensory bins as much as the kiddos at my center do.
12. Have a heart to heart with your mom (or dad). On the phone, or better yet, in person.
13.Go for a run.
14.Do some gardening. Something about reconnecting with the Earth always makes you feel better.
15.Have a playdate. Invite another special needs parent over. Set up an organized activity for the kids and chat – share information and swap stories.
16.Give your spouse a massage. Then get one from him or her.
17.Make chocolate chip cookies. A classic and sure to bring a smile to your family’s day.
18.Set up a DIY project. Try this darling (& easy!) little birdhouse.
19.Do some yoga! Stretching and focusing on getting into poses will help you destress and help you reconnect with your body and your breathing. If you do family yoga with your little one, he or she will also calm down and you can share the activity together. Win. Win.
20.Create a cosy nook with cushions and a fluffy blanket and create story time for your little love. In need of some book ideas? Check out My favorite Montessori-friendly books and My 10 favorite bedtime stories for children with autism.
21.Make a finger puppet stage– seriously, I love this project and had so much fun doing it here with the kids.
22.Cuddle your animals. Whenever someone is feeling down at my center, they get an extra long cuddle from Violette & Chou Chou!
23.If you’re having a hard time getting your child to stay focused or to engage in an activity with you, and this is really making you stressed and getting you down, try to get them to participate in functional activities as much as possible. Seeing them become more present through helping you with day-to-day activities is sure to lift your spirits!
24.Start a new family tradition. I often refer to family traditions because I LOVE them so much. I think family traditions are like a special glue that holds families together – making every moment more fun and creating memories that truly last a lifetime. One of my family traditions? My husband and I celebrate the day we started dating every month. We buy each other a little gift and write a card. Sometimes we plan a special surprise. The goal is to show the other one our love for them in a sweet and simple way. This is a tradition we plan to continue throughout our entire life – even after many, many years of marriage.
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