#1 Tip for Parenting a Child With Special Needs
No matter if your child is typically developing or you have a child(ren) with special needs, we have the best parenting tip that will help you every single day! And guess what?! It’s a super easy concept! However, a challenging one to implement! Want to know what the #1 tip for parenting your child is?
SELF CONTROL AND MANAGING YOURSELF!
All kids need a calm, loving caregiver who is present and can manage their own emotions. Being a caregiver is STRESSFUL and when we project that stress outward, our kids pick up on that behavior and emotion and have a hard time regulating themselves. Remember- kids observe our ACTIONS more than they listen to what we tell them. They are watching how we react, how we respond, and how we manage ourselves. When we set a positive example for them in our everyday lives (for example, how we react to stress, how we talk to others, how we talk about ourselves, how we handle problems, etc.), they set this as their model. When we are out of control there is a good chance that our child(ren) will be out of control!
Other Contributing Factors
In addition to managing our own emotions and behaviors, there are many reasons why a child may display negative behaviors:
- Lack of sleep
- Inconsistent schedules (i.e. holiday season, summertime)
- Lack of routine
- Overstimulation (from their environment or other people)
Other Parent Tips and Techniques
It’s important to manage these outside influences as much as possible to help encourage better regulation in our children. During times that we know schedules and sleep may be affected (i.e during the holidays or during the Summer), we can use the following parenting tips and techniques to help our children with self-regulation:
- Use visual supports (visual schedules)
- Use a social story that outlines a particular event, holiday, or season. Here are some free holiday social stories you can use to help prepare your child for unexpected events.
- Decrease the amount of stimulation in the environment by using noise canceling headphones, a weighted blanket, and build in time for sensory breaks (deep pressure input, mindfulness, calming music, etc.).
Parenting Tips and Techniques
Our children depend on us to help regulate their emotions and behavior. What better way to model these things for them! Here are some easy ways to manage our own behavior and carryout the #1 tip for parenting a child with special needs:
- Build in time throughout the week and day for your own self-care- this may be getting enough sleep each night, setting aside time in the morning before everyone wakes up to take 5-10 minutes of meditation time, setting up a workout/exercise routine, setting aside time for your own hobbies.
- Find ways throughout your day and week to laugh and find humor in situations. Both smiling and laughing have been studied extensively for centuries- showing laughter and smiling produce inner happiness.
- Give up on perfection and the need to compare yourself to others on social media. Give yourself a social media break- detoxing from social media can remove unnecessary noise and the negative emotional triggers often caused by comparing yourself to others.
- Focus on connecting with your family and kids daily. Spend quality time with them each day- give them a hug, go for a walk, read a book together, spend time just talking each night before bed. If your child is non-verbal, spend quality time together by engaging with them in something they find joy in!
- Count your blessings! Writing down what you are grateful for changes your mindset. Instead of looking at all of the challenges in your life and the things your child has not yet mastered, focus daily on one thing that is going well or one thing they are successful at!
- Take a look at your expectations- ask yourself- are they unrealistic? If your child is 2 years old, can you truly expect them to sit and attend for longer than 5 minutes? The answer is NO! If your child is non-verbal, can you expect them to communicate their wants and needs effectively? When someone does not live up to the expectations you have set in your mind- that is when you become disappointed and upset. Do a reality check on your expectations!
- Lastly, and most importantly, when your child is acting out or behaving in a negative way, KEEP YOUR COOL! As a caregiver it is super easy for us to lash out, raise our voices, or “punish” our child when they are really trying to communicate something to us. The more we are able to keep calm and maintain our own composure, the better outcome the situation will be! When your child goes into meltdown mode, check yourself- how am I feeling, what emotions are going through me, what is my child trying to communicate, what are my actions saying to my child?. This is tough, I know, but SO important for our children! How we deal with stress is how they will eventually deal with stress.
So, take a deep breath, count to 10, regroup, and remember your child has big emotions and needs lots of love during this time! Managing yourself, your emotions and your own behaviors is key! When hard times occur, the parent or caregiver’s response affects the likelihood of the behavior happening again.
If you need help creating strategies for your child to help manage their daily routines, please reach out to us! We are here for you!
Blog Written By: Cindy Taylor, MS, OTR/L