Practical Strategies and Emotional Support for the Parents of Quirky Kids
December 19, 2013
I hope that this finds you well. I am seeing a lot of good advice out there for parents of special needs children, especially related to strategies to get your children get through the holiday season.
I wanted to add my voice to that mix, and make sure we also focus on how you are doing as a parent and as a person.
Holidays and vacations bring particular emotional challenges for both children and adults. They bring routine changes and extended family obligations. Often even when our quirky kids are doing relatively well with their daily routines, the demands of vacation can be difficult for them (just as they can be difficult for all children).
We all have our own feelings when things are hard. And we have our own feelings when things fall apart. Especially when friends and family, who are usually not around, are witnesses to our children's distress or disregulation.
And we have our own hopes and dreams about this season.
Focusing on strategies for our children is only part of the story.
There is your story, too.
As difficult as it is to struggle in a daily way with our children, it is a whole different kettle of fish to manage a struggling child under the watchful eyes of other people.
Because we have feelings too. I am repeating myself about the feelings thing. But that is because it is so important.
It is one thing to tell a family member that things are tough. It is another experience to have them be a part of the tough experience.
It is also another thing to hear some of the comments and opinions about the ways we help our children or about our children's struggles.
Also, when, for the sake of holiday calm and honoring the needs of your children, you need to let go of some of your own hopes and expectations, you will have feelings about that. Especially if your holidays looks a lot different than you thought that they would, once upon a time.
So I am writing this to remind all of us think about what we need as parents and as people to get through the holiday season.
Five suggestions to help you prioritize your self-care over the holiday break:
1.) Carve out a little space and time to take care of yourself. (I know, easy to say. It has to be an explicit goal)
2.) Be very specific about what you need from friends and relatives. Ask the people you have identified as potentially helpful to step up in specific ways.
3.) Say no when you need to. No for yourself, and no for your children.
4.) Create some kind of structure or routine for each day. So that everyone can know what is coming next. Build in down time. Build in time to recharge.
5.) Be clear about what you can change and what you cannot change--at least in the short term--with your extended family and with children.
All of this is just a reminder to think about what you need and make a plan to ask for it.
Because it matters how you are managing. It matters how you are doing. And it matters how you are feeling.