1. Focus on your child’s strengths.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t try to help our children develop skills they lack. However, what I do believe is that we should make sure to spend plenty of time encouraging them to further develop the talents, skills, and qualities that come naturally to them. When we focus on helping them channel their natural gifts into positive directions, it is a win for everyone. Not only are we able to keep our eyes on how bright their future can be; but we also help them develop a positive self-image.
2. Make time for, or show interest in, what interests them.
This one can be a challenge for parents with kids whose special interests are… unique… to say the least. For example, I knew one child who was completely obsessed with high voltage power lines. However, I have learned that taking interest in the things that matter to my kids is a great way to connect with them. I’ve also learned a trick I will share with you. If I am completely unable to be interested in something that is significant to my child, I concern myself instead with discovering what it is about the topic that makes it important to my kid.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff & take time to pet the pigs.
I can’t tell you how much time and energy I used to waste on caring and worrying about things that really didn't matter. For instance, one summer we went to a working/educational farm with family who were in town. At the time, one of my kids was completely obsessed with pigs. It just so happened that a sow in the petting barn had a whole litter of piglets, and my son was delighted! The only problem was, he didn't want to see anything else. At first, I worked hard to coerce him away from the pigs so we could all move on to the next thing. He was so happy with those little piggies though, that eventually I asked my family to take my other kiddos and go see whatever else they wanted to. I stayed with my son and the pigs. He and I missed a good portion of the rest of the farm, but in the end, it really didn't matter because he had the time of his life. That happened 6 years ago, and he still remembers the time he got to pet the piglets! Whatever your battles, step back and ask yourself if it is really worth it. Let go of things that really don’t matter, and both you and your child will be happier.
4. Connect with other parents who have kids like yours.
Parenting is a tough job. Connecting with other parents helps on so many levels: having friends who understand your life, exchanging ideas to help deal with tough situations, and more. However, when our child is neurodivergent, and all of our friends’ children are not, sometimes hanging out with them can make us feel even more alone. Having struggles that none of your friends can relate to is isolating.
Connecting with parents who have kids like ours helps us to feel understood. Suddenly we find ourselves with a group of parents whose lives are very much like our own, and we no longer feel like we are the only one going through our parenting experiences. I’m not suggesting that we dump our other friends, of course not, but we all need to have the support of others who know what it is like to be us.
5. Remember to take time for yourself.
As parents, we work hard to make sure our children have everything that they need. When we have children who need extra support, we work even harder. At the end of the day, we are too exhausted to do anything other than collapse. Taking time away from meeting our kiddos’ needs feels selfish. However, our children need us to be at our best, and we can’t be at our best if we don’t have anything left to give. Taking time, on a regular basis, to do something to renew our spirits, minds, and bodies will actually help us to be better able to be the parents we want to be. For some of us, it is harder than others to be able to find the time, but with creativity, we can scratch out at least a few minutes of the day to do a little something for ourselves.
What do you think of my list? Do you have a different opinion? What suggestions do you have to add? Let us know!