Parenting a Child Who Needs More

Parenting a Child Who Needs More

Parenting a child that requires more

The parenting challenges you face when your child is neurodiverse, has special needs or trauma require different parenting tools

What no one ever tells a parent or caregiver of a child that requires “more” is what the struggles are like. Before you have a diagnosis there is little acknowledgment that the parenting challenges you are facing are harder than the “typical” childhood challenges.

Many times when you raise a question of “is this normal?” you are brushed off or made to feel better, instead of really being heard.

I get it. It’s happened to me several times over the years. People want to be reassuring and helpful and kind. They don’t want you to worry. They want to give your child a chance to develop because maybe they are a late bloomer.

And yet that “kindness” does unintended harm.

In the beginning, many parents and caregivers who have a “more” child just don’t understand why parenting is so hard. Especially if this is your first child. There is no context by which to judge. You simply don’t understand why others are not seeming to struggle the way you do.

If your “more” child is not the first born then there is the automatic comparison to other children. Wondering why is this child so difficult?

Either way it leads to a lot of parental self-doubt. A lot of personal judgment. A lot of guilt, fear, worry, anxiety, grief and loneliness. You may wonder what is wrong with me as a parent that I can’t seem to figure this parenting thing out?

Or sometimes it is that illusive idea that something is different about your child that is constantly gnawing at you, but how can you find something when you don’t know what you are looking for and others are telling you not to worry?

At some point parents and caregivers usually come to a crossroads. You either try to push through your instincts and try to get your child to respond to the “typical” parenting processes and solutions, which usually lead  to bigger issues down the road and damaged relationships. Or you forge your own way in hopes that answers might be found and relief obtained.

And what you also aren’t told is that even if you choose to look for the answers, it rarely creates the instant relief you were hoping for. Yes, you have the relief of naming the elusive ‘it’ you have been chasing, but you have also just found the starting point for your next chapter of hard work.

Once you do receive a diagnosis no one prepares you for the constant battles you will need to fight on behalf of your child and perhaps against your child, nor the amount of energy it can drain from you. Society may say it knows what a diagnosis means, but it does not mean it actually understands. Nor does it mean there will be compassion, support and automatic accommodations.

This is why it is hard parenting a “more” child. It is hard not knowing when something is different with your child. It is hard not knowing what to do when you suspect something is different with your child. It is hard to do the work and fight the fight that is often necessary to get your child help for their differences. And it can be hard to teach yourself and your child how to love, accept and advocate for the person they are, which includes their differences.

So to all my “more” parents out there who have children who are neurodiverse or have expereienced trauma or loss or have yet to be diagnosed, you are not alone. Your feelings and struggles are real and valid. Connect with me whether you just need to share a particularly hard day or because you need to just know that you are not alone. You can always email me or connect with me for a free chat.

Jen Kiss, Certified Parent Coach

Parenting a Child in Crisis

Parenting a Child in Crisis

Parenting A Child In Crisis

A child in crisis requires different parenting tools

Not too long ago my eldest got triggered. To me it seemed like a little moment, something I could push back on a little to work on their coping abilities and to help them stretch their window of tolerance. But I misjudged. I didn’t see all the signs. My love and desire to do right by my child had the unintended consequence of triggering my child.

As parents, this happens. And as parents, we must learn how to forgive ourselves when this happens.

So what happened…

My child escalated to uncontrollable meltdown in about 3 minutes time and left the house. At night, in the dark, when it was maybe around 20 degrees outside. They took off and didn’t look back.

My husband and I knew we needed to let them go. Going after them would have just made them run away faster, harder and longer. We knew we needed to trust that once they were calm enough they would come back. That we would be allowed to help when they could accept our help.

My husband and I were able to stay completely calm for the first 20 minutes. After all, this was not our first rodeo. Our eldest has been running away since around the age of 4 or 5.

But after 20 minutes, the doubt started to creep in. The fear of judgment began. How it would look to others who would see a preteen wondering alone on a cold night. Why aren’t they at home? Doesn’t their mother care about them? Are there no rules or discipline in that house?

I worried about if the police would come across my child when they are experiencing a trauma response. Chances are it would make things worse. Make my child escalate further. I worried about their safety if this were to happen.

I also worried about being seen as an unfit mother and losing my child because institutions rarely have compassion and understanding for what it is like to be a child in the throws of a trauma response or to be the parent of a child that gets hijacked by their body’s biological responses.

After 30 minutes my husband and I started looking out the windows and doors. It was now past 9pm. We looked for signs that our eldest was working their way back to us. No sign. So we talked and we decided it was cold enough to go looking for them.

Hoping enough time had passed that they would be able to accept our help. But of course there were no guarantees.

A child who lives with trauma or a disorder which causes them to become dysregulated is not in control of their actions. The survival part of their brain is, and it is telling them to fight like hell because their life is in danger. It does not matter to the brain if the threat is real or not or if it is truly a matter of life or death. The child has no control over their reaction and no control over how long their stress system takes to calm down. It is a waiting game for everyone.

By the time my husband got geared up to scour the neighborhood and started walking through our front yard our eldest was heading back to our house. My husband waited and walked them back into the house.

I gave my child a hug and asked if they were okay. When they said yes, I told them I was glad they were safe and that they had come back home. And then I simply said, ‘let’s get ready for bed, I’ll help you’.

There was no lecture, no yelling, no ‘what were you thinking!?!’.

With a child that requires “more”, what we do before is just as important as what we do after. I had made a mistake before, which caused my child to become triggered. Of course it did not feel great to know I caused my child’s distress, but I also know to forgive myself because these are the challenges my child has to navigate in life. It is not them and it is not me. It just is.

So as counter intuitive as it may seem, especially to other parents who raise neurotypical children or children who have not experienced trauma, simple acceptance in the present moment is what heals a child in a stress response.

The next day, when my child was calm we talked about how scared I was for their safety and what they were feeling that made them run. We also talked about what we can try to do to cope with big emotions.

My child will tell you that when they are triggered they either freeze or fly. They know themselves, but they cannot change their body’s physiological reaction, no one can. So we talk about prevention and safety. These are the things we can control. These are what keep incidents like these few and far between. It is also what made my eldest aware enough to grab some winter gear before going outside even in the middle of a stress response.

For children with extreme behaviors and challenges this is what life is like. Prevention and repair are key. There will be very little you can do when your child is in the actual throws of a meltdown.

For children who do not struggle with disorders, trauma or intensity, they are more able to accept help and direction to calm during a meltdown. But the children I am talking about, the children like my eldest, will not be able to accept that kind of help in the moment. They are too far gone. No amount of deep breathing will help them in that moment. Although it will help you. Deep breathe and practice your coping techniques while your child is having a meltdown. It will allow you to stay calm and make you ready to help them regulate once the worst parts of the meltdown are over.

Parents and caregivers who parent a child who requires “more” often feel isolated and hopeless when having to deal with the daily challenges and meltdowns. Society, and even friends and family, can judge these parents and caregivers harshly by telling them they are incompetent or that they have failed to instill discipline properly. Incorrectly blaming the parent, caregiver and child for a child’s physiological response to stress.

But you are not alone and you are not incompetent. And your kid is not bad, wrong or less than any other child. They just require a different set of tools. Ones that parents and caregivers are not usually told about or given.

Let’s get you the tools you and your child need to make parenting easier and more effective!

Let’s talk about your struggles

Jen Kiss, Certified Parent Coach

Destructive Tantrums

Destructive Tantrums

Tsunami Tantrums

The destruction a child can bring can bring fear to any parent

 

I remember what it used to be like when my eldest had meltdowns. The kind that lasts for an hour and leaves a disaster path in its wake.

Luckily no real damage was done…books were thrown, papers ripped up, chairs knocked over, little brother’s Lego creations demolished, you get the idea. This is luckily rare in our household these days because we have done the work through Parent Coaching to be able to avoid these kinds of tantrums most days, but I also remember when this was a more regular occurrence. We’re talking a few times a week and the possibility of destruction and physical self-harm much more extreme.

I remember what it used to feel like to be a parent back then.

I remember how powerless I used to feel when my child got set off by something that seemed insignificant to me. And sometimes I had no idea what set off my child, which made dealing with my child in crisis all the more frustrating and confusing.

All of the sudden our entire household was thrown into complete chaos by one child. A child I thought was too old to be acting like this.

My husband and I would get instantaneously sucked into the chaos and become infuriated with how our child was behaving, consumed with the fear of physical damage to our house and the cost it would entail, and completely hopeless about how nothing we were trying was changing the behavior, or stopping the tantrum.

I remember having to physically restrain my child from trying to hurt themselves because they were in that much pain and that out of control.

I remember there were several occasions during these tsunami like tantrums when I would just not want to be a mom anymore. I often just wanted someone to take my child away or I wanted someone I could call to could come over so I could leave and maybe never come back.

That was the hell I was in. It was that hard and I felt that hopeless.

That was then…

This is now…

I know who my child is at their core. They are not a bad kid or even an angry kid. My child is a scared kid. A kid that deals with intense emotions and anxiety that are hard to cope with and every once in a while it leads to an explosion.

But my child is not the problem.

And guess what, I’m not the problem either (neither is my husband if you are keeping score).

We are not bad parents or incompetent parents. We are parents who love our child, but completely lacked the skills needed to raise our child. A child who required more because they live with the effects of trauma and high sensitivity.

My child does not throw a tantrum and destroy my house because they want to cause damage or because they really want to make me angry, but because they are stuck in a stress response in their brain that is making them fight for their life.

Like I said, these explosions are a rarity in our house now and have been for a few years. And when they happen, I am able to stay calm and ride it out (most of the time – I’m human after all).

And as soon as my child is able to accept my help to help calm down, I am there ready and able to help them calm down. My child is able to express what went wrong and then clean up the house on their own.

And the best part…I feel really good. I don’t hate my child and I don’t hate being a mom to my child.

My child will always struggle with intense behaviors and high sensitivity, it is part of who they are.

And I now have the tools and skills needed to support my child in who they are and who they will become.

If you are where I was, I’d love to connect with you to help you find your new way.

Let’s Connect