avoid raising an entitled child

WHAT IS AN ENTITLED CHILD?

We love our kids. That is a given. However, in our quest to shower our kids with love and the best things in life, we often find ourselves raising entitled children.  How does a child become entitled? They seem unappreciative and act demanding, ungrateful, and selfish. In a nutshell, we took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and found ourselves in Entitled City.

TIPS AND STRATEGIES TO AVOID RAISING ENTITLED CHILDREN

Do you ask yourself, “Why is my child so entitled”?  Here are 10 strategies on how to avoid raising entitled children and stop entitled behavior dead in its tracks:

(1) Gifts are a privilege

Kids need their basic needs met- food, clothing, and shelter. Many of us didn’t have many materialistic things growing up, so we want our children to have what we lacked. Remember that gifts don’t fulfill what our kids really need. Love and memories are what matter most. Memories are far more valuable than tangible objects.

Of course, that doesn’t mean your children shouldn’t get any books, toys, or games. However, be mindful that too much of anything is not a good thing. If your children never want for anything, they will never learn to truly appreciate what they have.

(2) Institute chores

age appropriate chores for children

In order to avoid raising an entitled child, teach your child that they have responsibilities in the household as well. This teaches them self-sufficiency and the value of contribution. Chores will obviously vary based on age and ability, but even young children can do chores. This allows them to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Increase responsibilities with age and ability, and remember that doing their chores for them is not doing them any favors.

I don’t believe that a child should get paid to do chores, as there are certain obligations that we do simply because they are necessary. I don’t get paid to wash the dishes, and my husband doesn’t get paid to mow our lawn. That said, it is a different story if you want to give your child money for doing extra chores that are not their responsibility. Teaching your child the value of earning money is an important lesson as well.

(3) Give back

We often don’t appreciate what we have until we see how blessed we are. Children don’t always realize that many others lack the things they get so readily. It often takes seeing others who have less than we do to not take things for granted.

Let your child give back and spend time helping others. Whether it is volunteering at a soup kitchen or taking care of animals at the shelter, they are making a difference and see the value of giving. If your child has a ton of toys, let them gather up the ones they no longer use and donate them. Learning that giving is better than receiving is a life lesson worth learning at any age. They will feel good about themselves for helping others. This will help them to appreciate what they have and put their own good fortune into perspective.

(4) Make sure to spend quality time with your children

spending quality time with your child

The amount of time isn’t as important as the quality of time. Teach your children that love isn’t something reflected by the amount of toys they possess. Rather, it is shown by the connections people share. Set aside time each day to focus entirely on your child, without any distractions. Allow your child to determine how you spend your time together. It gives them a sense of control and independence, while teaching them that love cannot be bought. This time together should never be taken away as a punishment.

(5) Do not encourage entitled behavior

If your child doesn’t use their manners, acts demanding, or starts whining, simply state, “I will not discuss this with you until you are respectful.” Then ignore or walk away if necessary. Engaging will only send the message that this behavior is tolerated. When setting expectations, make sure they are age/ability appropriate.

Remember that although it is easier in the moment to give in and buy that candy bar when your child is throwing a tantrum in the store, it is also rewarding inappropriate behavior. It sends the message that your kid is entitled to get what he/she wants at any cost. In order to stop raising entitled children, remember that the values we instill in them now lay the foundation for their adulthood.

(6) Don’t solve their problems

As parents, it is heartbreaking when we watch our kids struggle. We want to step in and do whatever we can to make it easier for them. However, hardships are a part of life. If we don’t teach our children how to handle difficult situations now, how will they be equipped to deal with them as adults? They will grow up expecting that it is other people’s jobs to do challenging things for them. More importantly, they will have no coping skills for life’s challenges.

Talk to your kids about the fact that life isn’t always easy. It is okay to not always be okay. Model for your child ways you give yourself love and support during difficult times. Be a source of support when they are struggling too. Remember that you can support your child without fixing their problems. Instead, brainstorm about what they can do during difficult circumstances so they have the tools to help themselves. The harsh truth is that we will not always be there to soothe our kids and take their pain away. They must learn to rely on themselves.

(7) Teach the importance of intrinsic rewards

Good acts and behaviors are rewards in of themselves. We cannot give our child something every time they behave or say the right thing. It is okay to acknowledge their good behavior, but stress that they should feel proud of themselves. The next time your child makes a good decision say, “You should be proud of the way you ______________. How did that make you feel?” Allow them to take pride in their decisions and feel a sense of responsibility for their actions.  

(8) Actions have consequences through choices

Allow your children to make their own choices (within reason and based on age/ability), and to deal with the consequences of those choices. For example, if your child shows no regards for his belongings, remind him that he will misplace his toy if he isn’t mindful of where he puts his things. If he then loses his toy, the natural consequence is that he cannot use the toy it until he finds it. Do not help him look for it or repurchase it for him. Your child will learn that he is responsible for the outcome of his decisions.

(9) Teach your child empathy

importance of empathy

First, model empathy by showing concern for other people’s feelings. Demonstrate what you can do to support a person, even if it is just picking up phone and listening.

Next, encourage your child to consider other people’s feelings as well. For example, if a classmate has a family member who is ill, ask your child how they think their classmate is feeling. Discuss ways to comfort others during those difficult times (e.g., telling your classmate you are sorry about their grandmother, making a get well soon card). When events come up, discuss the impact it has on others. Help your child to consider other people’s feelings instead of solely focusing on their own.

(10) Model good behavior

You cannot expect your kid to be well-mannered and appreciative if you walk around demanding and rude. Our children watch and listen more than we realize. Being a kind, giving person goes a long way towards instilling compassion and kindness in our children.

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Our kids will grow up one day, and it is our job as parents to avoid raising entitled children. We must give them the tools they need to be well-adjusted adults . Setting them on the right path now will take them from entitled children to caring, empathetic, and grateful adults.

how to teach emotional regulation

Let’s be honest. Controlling our emotions is no easy task. With the chaos surrounding us due to the pandemic, our sense of normalcy and stability have gone out the window. We find it hard to manage our feelings due to the upheaval of our lives, so how can we expect our children to have emotional regulation? 

ZONES OF EMOTIONAL REGULATION

This is where the Zones of Emotional Regulation comes in. I cannot take credit for this; it was invented by Leah M. Kuypers. There is a book and applications designed to help children label and manage their emotions. If you’d like more information about those resources, you can go to here

The purpose of this article is to share what I successfully implemented with my daughter. I hope that this gives you and your child support and structure, which we all need now more than ever. Although this is great for anyone, it is particularly helpful for kids with special needs, young children, and/or anxious children. I learned about Zones of Regulation when my daughter was getting Occupational Therapy for her sensory issues. 

FOUR EMOTIONAL REGULATION ZONES

emotional regulation

The Zones of Emotional Regulation are comprised of four zones, each demonstrating a different level of emotions. Click here to download the Zones of Regulation Visual and other handouts. There is a blue zone, green zone, yellow zone, and red zone. You can print out the handout as is, which display the colors, or you can print it without color and have your child color it in themselves.  

The blue zone represents low energy, which can occur for a myriad of reasons. Someone who is in the blue zone may feel sad, sick, tired, or bored.

The remaining green, yellow, and red emotional regulation zones are similar to a traffic light. Therefore, using traffic lights to explain those emotional regulation zones is a helpful analogy. The green emotional regulation zone is similar to a green traffic light; the person is okay to go. When you are calm, happy, focused and relaxed you are in the green zone. The yellow zone of emotional regulation is like a yellow traffic light; it indicates to proceed with caution. If you are frustrated, excited, anxious, or starting to lose control, you are in the yellow zone. Lastly, the red zone of emotional regulation is like a red light. It means to stop. This is when feelings are extreme and/or out of control. Yelling, angry, scared, and other intense emotions occur in the red zone. 

HOW I INTRODUCED THE ZONES OF EMOTIONAL REGULATION TO MY DAUGHTER

I introduced the zones to my daughter by going over with her what each zone meant and what each associated feeling meant. It is also necessary to discuss and brainstorm with your child what strategies can be implemented when in the blue, yellow or red zone. Your child can write a list of what to do in those situations, draw pictures, or you can look up images and your child can cut them out and glue them onto a piece of paper.  

Strategies my daughter uses when in the yellow and red zone include hugs, talking with me, drawing pictures, singing songs, dancing, jumping up and down, squeezing stress balls, reading, listening to music, and doing belly breathing (filling belly up with air when inhale, and slowly letting air out of stomach when exhale). The tools your child needs to manage their emotions will vary based on the child, the emotions, and the circumstances. 

When I began this with Brielle, it took some time for her to get used to the idea of colored zones. Due to her sensory issues, impulsivity, and poor emotional regulation due to her ADHD, she acts first without thinking about the emotions behind her actions. I modeled my own zones, feelings, and tools to help her learn this new way of managing emotions. For example, if I felt angry, I told her that I was in the red zone because I was feeling angry, and I needed to listen to some music to calm down. 

REMIND YOUR CHILD TO BE AWARE OF THEIR EMOTIONS

emotional awareness

It is important to use “I” messages during your discussions. Examples include I feel” and “I need this tool” when speaking about the zones. 

I also asked my daughter what zone she was in if she didn’t bring it up herself. I encouraged her to be aware of her emotions and what she needed to regulate them so she could be in the green zone. With time and consistency, she got better at independently labeling what zone she was in, and then with repetition she was able to name the emotion that accompanied the zone.  

Initially, she was reminded to select tools to help her with this process. I created a “calming corner” in her room with things she pre-selected to help her feel better. Her calming corner included a bean bag chair, a weighted blanket, squeezing toys, and books. She was encouraged to go to the calming corner if she felt that would help, but there were times she wanted to do something else. I praised her for taking the initiative to select what tool would be best for her in the moment.  

USE THE ZONES OF REGULATION YOURSELF TO MODEL BEHAVIOR FOR YOUR CHILDREN

Remember that your children will model what they see. Try to keep your emotions in check, and label what zone you are in and what strategies you are using. It is unrealistic to think you can be calm and collected all the time, so be open about how you are feeling and what helps you to regulate your emotions. You are setting a great example for your kid and you are also taking the time to recognize and prioritize your feelings. It’s a win-win! 

Make several copies of the Zones of Emotional Regulation and the strategies you’ve discussed with your child. Put them throughout the house where they are easy to access. 

HELPING YOUR CHILD UNDERSTAND EMOTIONAL REGULATION

helping children understand emotional regulation

Another thing I implemented with my daughter along with emotional regulation is discussing whether she had a little problem, medium problem, or big problem. Brielle would react to any situation with the same ferocity. It was important for me to help her put things in perspective. A little problem is something that only impacts you and is easy to solve or can go away on its own. A medium problem involves some people and can be resolved in a matter of hours or a few days. A big problem is something that impacts many people and takes a long time to get resolved. 

Your child getting a paper cut is an example of a little problem. That said, don’t tell that to my daughter. She held up her middle finger in the backseat of the car the entire car ride because she had a paper cut on that finger. She refused to put her finger down. Yes, I got some stares from other people. A story for another time. 

A medium problem is getting locked out of your car and having to wait for AAA to come to your rescue. Annoying and frustrating (yellow zone!), but not a major problem in the scheme of things. 

A big problem is COVID-19. Sadly, I think that example explains itself. 

Remember to ask for your child’s zone when an opportunity arises. Another good idea is setting reminders in advance to discuss everyone’s zones at set intervals throughout the day.  

For example, if your child is in the red zone because he knocked over his blocks, acknowledge the zone if your child doesn’t do so on his own. Once your child has used his calming tools, ask if the problem was an example of a big, medium or little problem. I know that when my daughter is in the red zone, logic isn’t going to work with her. Once she has calmed down, she is more receptive to having a conversation about the significance of her problem.  

SUPPORT AND UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD’S FEELINGS

how you feel

Keep in mind that even though some of your child’s concerns and struggles are not a big deal to us, it often feels like a catastrophe to them. Try to support their feelings and understand them, while teaching and modeling a new way to think about situations. 

My daughter became so good at discussing zones and emotions that she now points out other people’s zones and emotions. There is nothing better than trying to explain an assignment to your child for the 4th time and having her say, “You look like you are in the red zone, Mommy. I think you’re going to explode. Do you need to use my calming corner?” How well the student has become the teacher. Sigh. 

Structure, consistency, and supporting one another’s feelings is always necessary, but especially when living through a pandemic. With many kids using distant learning or homeschooling, these tools are a great way to teach emotional regulation, awareness, and support your child’s (and your own!) emotional and social well-being.  

parenting a child with adhd and spd

Imagine this scene: You are shopping at a grocery store, and you see someone nearby (pre-COVID, of course). That person watches your daughter touch various items in the aisle. You try to stop your child, and remind her that she can look, but cannot touch. As you push your cart, your daughter starts running ahead even though you tell her to hold your hand. The person who is watching then shakes their head and mutters something about a wild child. This is a mere glimpse into my life of parenting a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing  Disorder (SPD).

“Parents who have children with special needs, also have special needs. They need to know more than the average parent. Need to do more than the average parent. They need more patience than the average parent, and so much more.” (Parents Supporting Parents).

parenting my child with adhd and spd

The scenario I described at the top is not at all shocking for a parent of a child with ADHD and SPD. The constant struggle to support our children is something that is an everyday part of our lives. Even worse, surveyors assume our children are spoiled and not properly parented.

This makes us feel shame, not only because we feel we are failing as parents, but because our children are being judged.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss strategies, although I’ve used many, which you can find here and here. On behalf of every parent who has a child with special needs, I am giving a glimpse into my experiences with my child who has ADHD and SPD. It is important to remember that “No two kids with ADHD are exactly alike. Their symptoms can vary in type and severity… ADHD isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.” (understood.org, 2014).

My hope is that sharing some of my obstacles will make other moms feel less alone and judged by others. Knowledge is the foundation for awareness and advocacy. My aspiration is that we spread awareness to those who do not understand these challenges.

lack of impulse control and emotional regulation skills

parenting a child with ADHD

One of the biggest challenges I face is my child’s lack of impulse control. Brielle needs constant monitoring. She has hurt herself several times because she runs down the stairs. Also, Brielle jumps off couches, is unable to take a shower by herself because she tries to jump and run in it, and throws herself backwards in chairs. She already fell backwards twice, but fortunately wasn’t hurt (although I aged ten years each time). Many times she went down the stairs at night and jump on the countertops. I continue to have a baby gate at the top of the stairs for my 8-year-old daughter. Whereas other children would learn from these painful mistakes, Brielle continues to put herself in danger.

Emotional regulation for Brielle is also a huge obstacle.

She perseverates on things that cause her to worry and feel sad. Using emotional regulation tools is very helpful, but she still fixates on things and needs extra support to process her feelings and move past them. “Kids with ADHD don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions. If they don’t have it, how do you expect them to do it? How do you expect them to respond to what you’re asking them to do? It’s like they can’t win.” (Dr. Dawn K. Brown, MD, ADHD Wellness Center, 2016).

As I illustrated in my earlier scenario, taking Brielle with me on errands is a recipe for disaster. She is overly stimulated by all the things in the store and wants to touch everything. Due to her short attention span, she gets very frustrated when having to stay next to me and walk calmly. I only bring her for quick errands while providing redirection and encouragement. If my errand requires me to talk to a cashier or salesperson, Brielle will get restless and try to run around.

parenting a child with adhd who has endless energy and craves sensory stimulation is very difficult

sensory stimulation

Brielle plays outside every day as an outlet for all her energy. However, when playing in the yard, she runs up the driveway towards the street despite my consistent reminders. She tries to take her scooter and sit on it instead of standing. She’s fallen down the driveway on multiple occasions.

Brielle craves sensory stimulation.

She is always seeking out “more.” I am fearful at parks because she climbs up objects without looking where she is putting her feet. She jumps off of high places (I will never forget the time I had to catch her when she walked off a beam midair), and runs around without looking to see if any object can hit her. As a result, I can’t sit at a park and relax. It is imperative that I am hyper alert everywhere. Looking away for a few seconds is the difference between safety and disaster.

From morning until night, Brielle is always on the go. That means that from the moment she wakes up, she is immediately energized. She goes from 0 to 100. No matter my exhaustion or mood, I have to be alert. There is simply no laying low with her.

lack of focusing and difficulty playing independently 

independent play

Everyday Brielle loses her stuff because she is always on the go. She doesn’t remember where she puts her things, so keeping her stuff organized is a must. When she had dance class, there was always at least one item missing. As a result, I had to go on a scavenger hunt with her to find her shoes, her leotard, or her tights. Teachers needed to assist her in making sure that her folders and materials were packed in her bookbag. There were two occasions where she brought her folders back to school and proceeded to misplace them.

They were lost for two months.

Brielle rushes through activities and moves on to something else very quickly. She needs numerous reminders to stop before jumping to another activity. She will leave books on the floor, clothes on the bed, and toys all over unless she is redirected.

Playing independently is a huge challenge for her because using her imagination requires higher level thinking. She has difficulty coming up with safe ways of playing independently due to her sensory issues and impulsivity. I limit her choices to only a few items when she does “quiet time,” and I check in on her regularly.

If I don’t check on her, she does things such as jumping into the tub and turning on the water, spilling water all over the floor, and/or going into closets and taking things out.

Due to her lack of impulse control, she will interrupt and tap me when I am in the middle of something. I cannot look at my emails, talk on the phone, or have a conversation without Brielle trying to get my attention or get into something if I am preoccupied.

Boredom in a child with ADHD and SPD equals trouble. She has gone into my room and looked inside my drawers, in my closets, and through my jewelry. There have been many incidences where she accidentally shattered hung pictures on walls and items on floors because she is running around. I give verbal and visual prompts that she needs to wait for her turn, but this is something she struggles with daily. What may appear to others as being demanding or a troublemaker is actually a child who struggles with delayed gratification. Brielle always acts before she thinks.

inattention and executive functioning

Brielle has difficulty focusing and learning, as well as executive functioning issues. She has an IEP because she needs constant redirection, individualized instruction, and the use of multiple prompts to learn new information. There are times when she is unable to grasp new material because of her processing issues and poor memory.

She has a different learning style than others, but that does not mean she can’t learn.

Brielle has difficulty sleeping because of her sensory issues with her bladder. She will have accidents because it doesn’t register that she has to go to the bathroom. Most often, she uses the bathroom every few minutes because she is overly sensitive to the sensation.

Brielle’s body doesn’t register exhaustion like other kids, so she becomes hyperactive (more than usual) when she gets overtired. She also has difficulty falling asleep because her body and mind won’t quiet down. As Sarah Young explained, “Living with ADHD is like being locked in a room with 100 televisions and 100 radios all playing. None of them have power buttons so you can turn them off and the door is locked from the outside.”

 

 

childs advocate

There are many ways of supporting kids with special needs, and Brielle has made huge strides.

She is not defined by her ADHD and SPD; rather, she is a smart, funny, sweet, loving, sensitive girl who has ADHD and SPD.
“No mom who is actively trying to understand what their child is going through should ever feel like they are not doing enough or they are a bad mom. Your child is very lucky to be loved so unconditionally by you. Some day they will look back and say, ‘I got here because of you.’”

( ourADHDstory.com, 2014).

 
We are our children’s biggest supporters and greatest advocates. Wear that honor with pride and hold your head up high. Remember that your kids are lucky to have a parent who tries as hard as you do.
personalized placemat craft

Now that the weather is getting chillier, I wanted to share a fun craft for your kids.

Drumroll please….it’s a personalized placemat!

I LOVE this personalized placemat craft for so many reasons!

1-It can be modified for nearly every age and ability. I first did this project with Brielle when she was two, and at 8 she is still excited to make them (the picture above is her latest one).

2- For those of you that have young kids or kids with a limited attention span, you know you’ve hit the craft jackpot when your child actually WANTS to focus on an activity for more than five minutes. It’s like a breath of fresh air to see your child eagerly working on something!

3- It is SO easy to do. Your can put more or less detail into it based on your child’s preference, but the basic directions are super simple to follow.

4- It is something they/you can keep for years to come (just make sure to clean it regularly), and it is a wonderful gift for grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

I can continue to ramble about why this art project is a favorite of mine, or I can cut to the chase and start explaining it! Without further ado, here is what you will need to make your personalized placemat:

Materials

1- Clear contact paper

2- Construction paper

3- Scissors

4- Markers, crayons, colored pencils, and/or paints

5- Stickers (optional)

6- Glitter (optional)

7- Wasabi tape (optional)

8- Buttons, confetti paper, or anything small and relatively flat that your child would like to include

9- Fake maple leaves (optional)

10- Fake snowflakes (optional)

11- Fake flowers (optional)

12- Glue or tape

Most of the materials are optional, which is fantastic because you can basically use whatever craft supplies you have around your house!

The first few times my daughter made her personalized placemat, she only used leaves and stickers. This time she decided to use snowflakes, leaves, and flowers to represent all the seasons. Of course, the placemats don’t have to have any seasonal theme at all. It is completely up to your kids and their imaginations!

directions to make a personalized placemat

1- Cut two pieces of contact paper per placement. It can be cut based on whatever size your kids prefer, but ours is 11×18 inches.

2- Unpeel one sheet of paper, and leave the sticky side up. This will be where you stick your materials.

3- Modify the project based on age and ability. If they are too small to use scissors, they can rip construction paper or confetti tissue paper into pieces and scatter it across the contact paper. Another option is you can cut shapes for them, and they can decide where to place it. There is no right and wrong way to do this. It is whatever works best for your child!

4- Your child can scribble, color, paint, write or design the cut-outs. They can use stickers or any item of their choosing as well.

Here are some shapes and decorations she used when she was younger:

Below are some of the designs she used for the placemat she made a few weeks ago. She decided to use flowers, leaves (cut outs and fake), and snowflakes (I drew the snowflake, and she colored it in). Some she painted and others she colored in with crayons.

5- Once your child finishes designing and picking items, it’s time to decide where to place them. Let your child spread them around the contact paper.

Brielle designed and spread these out when she was younger, and she asked me to write her name on one of the leaves so this would be her designated placemat:

7- Unpeel the second piece of contact paper and place the sticky side on top of the objects so that the objects are enclosed on both sides by the sticky part of the contact paper.

8- If necessary, trim the edges to make sure both sides are even.

9- Measure the wasabi tape so it goes around each of the edges to adhere them .

Another option is to glue or tape the edges to ensure they don’t unravel with time.

That’s it! Let your kid take a step back and admire their handiwork!

It’s the simple projects that are the most fun for the kids AND the parents! I love that this is something Brielle can mostly do on her own, with minimal input from me (I trim the edges and the wasabi tape).

She can take pride in knowing that she decided what to use, as well as the design and placement. It gives her a huge sense of accomplishment that she is responsible for the final result!

I can’t wait for your kids to design them. I would love to see your personalized placemats. Post and tag me on Instagram @survivingmomblog with the hashtag #survivingmomblogcraft.

I hope your kids enjoy this personalized placemat craft for years to come!

15 life lessons every child should know

Life is filled with obstacles, but my aspiration is that my child navigates it with courage, determination, and grace. Some life lessons she will have to learn herself, but my hope is that my words can guide her along her journey:

15 powerful LESSONS LEARNED IN LIFE everyone should know

(1) Don’t be afraid to use your voice

There will always be people who won’t agree with what you are saying, and that is okay. If you believe in something strongly, keep standing by your convictions. Don’t allow anyone to diminish your feelings or beliefs. Stay true to yourself and let you head and you heart be your north star. If you are willing to follow them, they will always lead you in the right direction.

(2) This world can be a cruel place, and people may judge or comment about how you look

It is okay to take pride in your appearance, but remember that your looks should not define you. Strive for kindness. Unlike beauty, kindness does not fade with age. There will be times that it is tempting to combat cruelty with cruelty. There is enough anger and hate in this world. Allow the light within you to lead you out of the darkness.

(3) Weight is simply a number on a scale

It is easy to fall down the rabbit’s hole if you focus on those numbers. Instead, strive to be healthy. Eat fruits and vegetables and exercise. It is okay to enjoy a snack or eat a bowl of pasta. Remember to do things in moderation. Take care of your body as opposed to trying to change your body. This is a very important life lesson.

believe in yourself

(4) You can be anything you want to be

Really. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. Reach for the stars, and do something that you feel passionate about. It is okay to have high ambitions. Don’t allow yourself to settle for anything less than what will make you happy. Always believe in yourself.

(5) It is okay to be emotional

That may make some people uncomfortable, and that’s on them. Some may tell you to “stay strong”. Expressing your emotions is what truly makes you strong. Trust your emotions. Don’t bury your feelings or let others tell you how to feel. It is normal and healthy to express your feelings. Care. Care deeply and feel deeply. If more people were like that, the world would be a much better place.

(6) There is no weakness in forgiveness

Like everything else, this needs to be applied in moderation. Forgive those who genuinely care and respect you. There will be people who will mistake your kindness for weakness. Those people will try to take advantage of you. Don’t have those types of people in your life. People will make mistakes, and you will make mistakes. That is par for the course. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Don’t allow the weight of mistakes to crush you.

(7) Have respect and compassion for others and for yourself

Accept and love all parts of yourself. Remember to always treat others the way you want to be treated. Set boundaries and hold yourself and others accountable for respecting those boundaries.

(8) It is okay to be different

Stay true to who and what you are. It is difficult to be different in this world because there is a lot of judgment and ignorance. That doesn’t mean you should allow those types of people to dictate how you live your life. There are enough sheep in this world. Be a leader, not a follower, and always march to the beat of your own drum.

respect yourself as well as others

(9) Your body, your choice. Period.

Don’t let anyone tell you what to do with your body. Hug those you want to hug (if they want to be hugged). Kiss those you want to kiss (if they want to be kissed too). If you don’t feel comfortable doing something, then don’t do it. Just as it is better in life to say “no” rather than go along with what others say or do, the same applies to your body. You get to decide when, where and how you use your body.

(10) There are others in this world who may be afraid or unable to stand up for themselves

Just as you should use your own voice to stand up for yourself, remember to speak up if someone else is getting mistreated. Remember that saying nothing speaks volumes.

(11) Love is a gift and a privilege

So is trust. Both should only be given to those who earn it and treasure it. Love wisely, but don’t be afraid of loving. Love is the only answer in a world of endless questions.

(12) Try your best at everything you do

If you are only willing to put in partial effort, it isn’t worth any effort at all. Don’t confuse effort with perfection. Nobody is capable of perfection. Your best will sometimes be better than others, and sometimes others will be better than yours. Do the best you can and accept that your best is all you can strive for. Whatever the outcome might be, be proud of yourself for trying. I will always be proud of you too.

learn from lessons life teaches you

(13) Life is comprised of a series of choices

Often the right choice is the harder choice. Choose right over easy every time. It is worth the extra effort to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of who you are.

(14) Inevitably life will knock you down

The truth is that life is a series of curveballs. No matter the circumstance, always get back up and keep on going. Learn from the lessons life teaches you. Perseverance and believing in yourself are essential ingredients to navigate through the murky waters of life. It may feel like the world is turning its back on you, but determination and hope will always help you find your way.

(15) Remember to not just live life, but to experience it

Remember to see the forest through the trees. Have fun. Spend time doing things that make you smile. Enjoy your own company, but also enjoy the company of others. Life is an adventure, and it is up to you how you live it.

 

 

There are many lessons I have learned in life. My hope is that these lessons will remind my child (and yours) that life has so much wisdom in it, if we are open to learning from our experiences.

tricky people

As a former New Yorker, I am always cautious when it comes to strangers. We learned about stranger danger growing up, but the tricky people concept can be a better way to teach kids to stay away from sketchy adults.

I’m a very petite female, so I understand others can pose a threat to me. That said, the most important people in my life were once strangers. My husband was once a stranger, and his family (now my family) were once strangers. One might say that strangers are friends you haven’t met yet. 

my daughter’s numerous encounters with strangers

My daughter absolutely subscribes to this way of thinking. When she was very young, she would smile and wave to everyone she saw at the grocery store. It made a quick trip to the supermarket a huge ordeal as everyone would smile back and begin to chat with her/me. As she got older, a greeting followed suit. I explained to her that we shouldn’t start up a conversation with people we don’t know, but she looked at me baffled. In her mind, it was an opportunity to meet and engage with new people.

my daughters encounters with strangers

When Brielle was 3 years old, we went to a neighborhood park with my husband and my in-laws. Brielle was (and still is) a bundle of energy, and there was a big field where she could run around. It was deserted until a couple of well-dressed men in suits showed up. I was speaking to my in-laws when my husband tapped me on the shoulder. To my horror, Brielle had gone over to these men and interrupted their conversation. The men were smiling at her and clearly found her amusing. Before my husband could stop me, I ran over and apologized for the intrusion and dragged her away. My husband informed me after the fact that these well-dressed men were doing a drug exchange when Brielle ran over. I aged 10 years in that moment.

I explained to Brielle the importance of 911, and she was told to only dial those numbers if the person with her is unresponsive and/or she is in danger. She knows our phone number and address in case of an emergency. To my shock and terror, she started telling cashiers at the supermarket our phone number and address. That incident aged me another 20 years. Luckily after another conversation about privacy and the importance of keeping contact information to ourselves, she no longer did that again.

i had to teach my daughter how to be safe

I wish I could say that those were the last times Brielle put herself in harm’s way, but that would be a lie. When Brielle was 5, Matt went across the street to ask our neighbors a question, and I told Brielle to go into her playroom so I could take a quick shower.

I went into the bathroom and turned the shower on. At that point, a feeling of doom came over me. I don’t know if it was maternal instinct or divine intervention, but somehow, I knew something was wrong.

I immediately ran out of the bathroom to check on Brielle. She wasn’t there. I screamed her name, but there was no answer. At this point I opened the door and started screaming on the top of my lungs for her. To my relief, I heard Brielle come to the front porch. After I gave her a huge hug and composed myself, I asked her where she had gone. She told me she went outside to find Matt, and she heard my voice right before she left our driveway.

I knew I had to instill in Brielle an awareness that it is not okay to wander outside or talk to strangers. However, there is a fine line between being cautious and being fearful, and I wanted to make sure that I treaded that line carefully. It was at that point that I spoke to her about “tricky people”.

teaching kids about tricky people

teach kids to identify tricky people

Pattie Fitzgerald, the creator of the website Safely Ever After, Inc., came up with the concept of tricky people. I know some people explain it as “stranger danger”, but I feared that explaining it in that way would make my daughter feel that all strangers are dangerous.

I told Brielle that a grownup is trying to trick her if she is approached by one for help. If a safe adult needs help, they will ask another adult, not a kid. Pattie explains, “Instead of looking for the boogie man, a child should look for the person asking them to do something that doesn’t sound right or ask if the adult is trying to get them to break one of their family’s safety rules or trick them.” She lists her “Super 10, Play-It-Safe Rules for Kids and Grownups” here: https://safelyeverafter.com/prevention/#tab-886fbe060b867e5ba61.

how i teach my daughter the tricky people concept

I informed Brielle that most people are not a threat, but it is important to understand the concept of tricky people. I explained that tricky people are the ones who try to trick you into doing something you shouldn’t do, such as getting into their car, or telling her they have a toy/animal in order to take her. She knows that I would never tell someone to pick her up or ask her to leave without talking with her about it in advance, and in the case of an emergency I would tell this person the password.

The password is a word I thought up as a code word that only my daughter and I know. She is not allowed to tell anyone the password, and only someone who received my permission to take her would know it. We have acted out different scenes of what a “tricky person” might say to try to convince her to go with him/her, and how she should handle herself in those situations. As much as I have tried to drill this awareness into her, she still is very trusting, and I worry.

internet predators and teaching kids about other types of tricky people

internet predators

Brielle uses the iPad on weekends to watch pre-selected shows. I discovered that she was going onto fan groups for these actors, and chatting with others on a fan board. When I tried to discuss the dangers of speaking with strangers online, she was puzzled. She didn’t understand how anyone could hurt her when the only interaction was from a computer. She said that they can’t jump out of the screen; therefore, she was in no imminent danger.

I looked up different tricky people scenarios that are meant for children and showed it to Brielle. I explained to her that tricky people can be on the computer as well. Her IPad usage is closely monitored, but I know I can’t monitor every action that she makes.

it’s our job as parents to teach kids about tricky people and to be cautious, not fearful 

It seems like life is an endless game of whack-a-mole. Every single time I discuss the dangers of one situation, another one pops up. It makes me want to lock my daughter in our house and throw away the key.

It is our job as parents to teach and guide our children. Despite all our best efforts, there are still monsters out there. Some are in the playground, others in a car, and some are on the computer. The world is a scary place, but being scared of everything isn’t a way to live. Ignoring harsh realities aren’t okay either.

I will continue to try to instill in her that although there are many kind people, there are also some whose intentions aren’t pure. Tricky people can be anywhere – from the grocery store to an online chat room or kids game. It is my job to protect her from the tricky people in the world, but it is also her job to be mindful of those people and to not put herself in harm’s way.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. The world is a better place because of our children’s trust in the good of people. All we can do as parents is keep pointing our kids in the right direction, be diligent about their safety, and teach them to be cautious, not fearful.

13 sleep solutions to aid children at bedtime

Many children need help falling asleep. Bedtime is a particularly difficult time for my daughter. For many years she had no problem falling asleep and staying asleep. As Brielle got older, her mind and body started to get restless due to her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and ADHD. What was once a seamless transition turned into evenings filled with tears, anxiety, and fear. I had to research and come up with sleep solutions to help her relax and doze off at bedtime.

sleep solutions and tools to help a child fall asleep

There are numerous strategies and products that aid in my daughter’s transition to bedtime. I hope some of these sleep solutions and tools are helpful for your kids as well:

(1) Brainstorm

Discuss with your child what specifically is bothersome for them about bedtime. Is it the dark? Are they afraid of sleeping in a room by themselves? Is it that they can’t calm their thoughts? Whatever it is, encourage your child to be open and honest about their concerns. Be supportive, and brainstorm together about what tools they can use to help your child fall asleep.

Some ideas that my daughter and I brainstormed together:

(a) My daughter doesn’t like being by herself at night and is also a restless sleeper. My husband and I each gave her a stuffed animal that we had from our childhood, so she has something tangible to remind her that we are with her while she sleeps in her own room.

(b) We also were gifted a small photo album such as this one. It is filled with photos of her family that she can look at if she feels sad. I love that the album is small, so she can easily hold it.

(c) Brielle didn’t like the darkness, so she used a light projector that comes in a variety of colors and settings.

(2) Relaxation Techniques

There are many sleep solution tools available to help your child relax and prevent bedtime battles:

a) I do a visualization with her before bedtime where she imagines a box filled with all her worries and concerns. She tells me what the box looks like, and then she visualizes opening her box and fills it up with every fear and bothersome thought. Next, she imagines closing the box, putting a lock on it (so the worries can’t creep back into her mind), and throwing it where it is impossible to resurface (sometimes it is the bottom of an ocean, other times it is buried underground). This is the only time during our bedtime routine where I allow her to voice her grievances. Once they are put in the box, we put aside negative thoughts and wait until the morning to discuss any, as needed.

b) Breathing: there are several breathing techniques we use. She gets to pick which ones she wants to implement each night:

· 4-7-8: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. We do this together several times.

· Deep belly breathing: She inhales and fills her tummy with air then exhales and the air leaves her tummy. You can do this while doing the 4-7-8, but I find that it overwhelms her, so we choose one or the other.

· Tensing and relaxing her body from her head to her toes: She tenses/squeezes her face, arms and hands, chest, stomach, legs, and feet for 7 seconds while taking a deep breath and holding it, and then exhales as she releases the tension in that body part. This is a favorite of mine, and one which I do on my own as a form of self-care .

· Taking an inhale and then exhaling for as long as she can while vibrating her lips to make a “wwww” or “ommm” sound: According to Neurosculpting Instititue (neurosculptinginstitute.com), “The researchers found that the vibrations from ‘OM’ chanting stimulate the vagus nerve, which then sends out neurotransmitters and electrical signals that reduce activity to key areas of the brain like the amygdala, associated with our flight/fight/freeze response. In addition, the increased oxygenation of the blood from the vibration facilitates feelings of relaxation and release in the muscles and structure of the body.”

(3) Being her own friend

As I mentioned in my article about ways to build your confidence , it is important to treat yourself with the same compassion as you would a friend. If she still feels anxious or sad after using the relaxation techniques, I encourage her to talk to herself and comfort herself just like she would if a friend was upset at bedtime.

(4) Using a sound soother

My husband and I use a sound soother, and our daughter has one in her room as well. We bought her this sound soother almost a decade ago, and it is still going strong!

The sound soother is crucial for her sleep routine. It helps her fall asleep and stay asleep when there is background noise that might wake her up. It also helps calm her mind and body. She uses the rain sound, but all the sounds work very well. This is a great tool to help your child fall asleep.

(5) Weighted blanket

Having that extra pressure on her body when she goes to sleep is extremely helpful in calming and relaxing her. We got her this one because it is budget-friendly, gives just the right amount of support, and has great reviews on Amazon.

sleep solutions to aid in preventing bedtime battles

(6) Consistency

Keeping a consistent bedtime is crucial for those who need extra support during transitions or don’t like changes in their routine. Life sometimes gets in the way, but I try to have her go to bed at the same time as often as possible.

(7) Books

There are many great books out there about kids who have difficulty sleeping. I chose the book, Orion and the Dark, because it tells the story of a boy who has many fears, particularly the dark, and he discovers that darkness can be his friend. After reading it, we talk about her fears, and how it is okay to feel afraid, but being brave is facing things despite being afraid.

(8) Come up with a bedtime routine

Just as having bedtime at the same time each night is helpful, so is having a consistent routine leading up to saying goodnight. I set aside 15-20 minutes before I leave her room to read books, discuss and implement what sleep solutions and tools she is going to use to aid her with bedtime, and give hugs and kisses.

(9) Alarm clocks

Many younger kids benefit from having an alarm clock with lights to notify them when it is time to wake up (red=sleep and green=wake up), and older kids can have a digital clock that they set. In my daughter’s case, she would wake up hours before the time that we told her. She would then stare at the clock until she was allowed to get up. As a result, we opted to take the clock out of her room and revisit it another time.

(10) Video monitor

We used this video monitor when she was a baby, and it something we still use today. It is very helpful because it reassures her that although she is not with us, we can still see her and hear her.

(11) Transitions

After spending time with her reading and doing relaxation exercises, I noticed that she would get anxious and scared once I left her room. It felt like all the work we had done together vanished as soon as I walked away. As a result, I incorporated a 12-minute period in which she can go to the bathroom, talk to herself, and do the relaxation exercises on her own before she had to lay down. Putting this small window of time in between my leaving her room and her laying down made the transition to sleeping much easier.

We discuss in advance what I will say when the 12 minutes is up. I want to keep the interaction as brief as possible. I speak into the monitor and let her know that her time is up, and she is to lay down. We then tell each other “I love you” and “Goodnight.” At that point, our interaction for the night is over. She knows I will not speak to her again until the morning. At first, she got upset when I would only speak to her once. Through consistency she learned that this is part of our bedtime routine. The structure of it aids in her sleep and helps prevent battles at bedtime.

(12) Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural and non-addictive supplement that can be used to help problematic sleepers. Speak to your pediatrician to discuss what dosage would be best for your child.

(13) Black Out Curtains

Black Out Curtains are a great idea for kids who wake up when the light shines into their room. These have great reviews , come in a variety of colors, and are a great price!

 

 

help a child fall asleep

I offer my daughter empathy, support, and compassion, but I cannot force my daughter to feel okay at bedtime. Her perception about bedtime is based on her own inner dialogue. She can choose to see bedtime in a positive way, or she can see bedtime in a negative way. I do everything within my power to aid in that choice. She is the one who makes that decision. These sleep solutions and products have been very helpful for Brielle. With that said, there is no magical wand that can make our children WANT to sleep.

Finding tools and strategies to help a child fall asleep is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is a trial and error process to determine what will work best for each child. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me! I hope that some of these sleep solutions are helpful for your child!

succeed in school and at home

There are many challenges of parenting a child with ADHD. This is Part 2 of Strategies and Tips to Help children with ADHD. If you missed Part 1,  read here. I hope you find these tips helpful in your parenting journey:

parenting tips for children with adhd

 

(1) Be open and honest with your child about their struggles so there is no shame associated with it. Children with ADHD needs compassion, empathy and support.

Having open lines of communication is crucial. Brielle is aware of her challenges, which include focusing and impulsivity, but she understands that who she is as a person is what defines her. While struggles are important to address, it is just as important to emphasize your child’s strengths! Remember to emphasize their skills as well.

(2) Limit screen time

I understand we all need a break, and there are times that we put our kids on the iPad or TV as a lifeline, so we don’t lose our minds. However, children with ADHD tends to be so enthralled with the stimulation from the screen that it becomes a huge battle to take it away from them. Children with ADHD become hyper-focused on what fascinates them, and the transition from screen time to no screen time is incredibly hard for them. My daughter acts possessed after I take away the iPad. On the weekends, I allow her to pick between the iPad or TV for thirty minutes each time. I set a timer on her iPad that goes off in thirty minutes. I then give her ten-minute and five-minute reminders.

Limit Screen Time

(3) Discuss strategies in advance to use when your child has difficulty regulating emotions

I created a “calming corner” for my daughter that is comprised of a bean bag chair, a weighted blanker, squeeze ball and some books. Make a chart of different options/tools your child can use, and place it in various locations throughout the house that are easily accessible. Encourage your child to use the tools when needed.

(4) Stay calm

I know how hard that is, believe me! However, if we want our children with ADHD to learn strategies to emotionally regulate themselves, we have to model how we emotionally regulate ourselves. It is okay to let your child know that you need to use one of your tools, and model the importance of self-care and emotional well-being.

(5) Advocate for your child with ADHD, and make sure your child has a 504 plan or an IEP (Individualized Education Program).

As I discussed in 6 strategies and tips for parenting a special needs child , it is important that you are on the same page as your child’s teacher and school.  Strategies need to be implemented in the school as well as the home to set your child up for success. It is important to communicate with your child’s teacher on a regular basis.

(6) Educate yourself about ADHD

Join support groups. Read literature about it. Speak to your child’s pediatrician, psychologist and any other related professional to discuss possible options. Knowledge is power. You want to know all pertinent information to make an informed decision about what is best for your child. Have an open mind, and be willing to explore different options. If medication is suggested, find out about all possible side effects and be in constant communication with the psychiatrist. There is no shame in your child needing medication, but make sure you are well-informed before choosing any option.

(7) ADHD can accompany other issues such as executive functioning delays, processing issues, anxiety, or autism.

Make sure your child has a comprehensive evaluation so you are in the best position to help your child. As I mentioned in the last tip, knowledge is power.

(8) There is no one size fits all solution

Be humble enough to seek help and gather information from others, but also trust your own intuition. Nobody knows your child better than you.

(9) Take time for yourself!

We love our children so much that we often take our own well-being for granted. You are in a better position to support your child when you aren’t pouring from an empty cup. In order to properly care for your child, you need to love and care for yourself.

(10) Mistakes are inevitable

Parenting is a challenge with any child, and children with ADHD require extra support. There will be times where you will say or do the wrong thing. Own up to your mistakes. Set a good example that flaws are part of life, but we can learn and grow from them.

love and accept your child for who they are

challenges of parenting a child with adhd As parents, we have a responsibility to support our children, advocate for them, and love them for who they are, not the labels they have. Teach your children to accept themselves and to love all parts of themselves.

Be your child’s biggest cheerleader and fan. Try to instill in them that although some things are challenging for them, they are capable and wonderful just as they are. Parenting a child with ADHD is challenging. As in all aspects of life, some days will be easier, and some days will be incredibly challenging. The journey of parenting is a bumpy road, but I feel blessed to be along for the ride with my daughter.

parenting tips and strategies and tips to help

parenting a child with adhd

This article is part 1 of a 2-part article devoted to parenting and providing tips to help children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):

I have not been shy about how hard it is to be a parent. My daughter wasn’t officially diagnosed with ADHD until she was 6. However, we suspected she had ADHD long before she was diagnosed. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, and more importantly, as a mother, I came up with some strategies to help my daughter:

tips to help children with adhd

Strategies to Help Children with ADHD

(1) Structure and routines are crucial

Most kids like routine, but stability is extra important for children with ADHD. If you subscribed to my blog, you have the daily routine I use with my daughter for homeschooling/remote learning. Involve your child in the implementation of their routine (within reason) so your child has some input. For example, I give my daughter options of what she gets to do when she takes a break.

(2) Establish clear boundaries and expectations in advance

Make sure these boundaries are reasonable. It is crucial to understand your child’s capabilities and set expectations accordingly to promote success. That means expecting your child to calmly walk throughout the grocery store while you to do a full grocery shopping is unreasonable. A more reasonable expectation (that is more likely to be successful) is making a list of a few essential items and playing a game to see who will spot the items first.

(3) Transitions are especially challenging for children with ADHD

Make sure to discuss transitions in advance, so your child is prepared for it. Give reminders of upcoming transitions as well. I try to give a ten minute and then five minute warning before transitions (like leaving the park, stop playing with a friend, leaving the house).

Pick Your Battles

(4) Give your child opportunities to make choices

Kids like to feel some sense of control. Power struggles are common, but if you give your child some options, you give them a sense of power while still having control of the situation. Try to provide options rather than ask an open-ended question. I provide my daughter with choices throughout the day such as offering carrots or strawberries for a snack, whether she wants to wear sneakers or sandals when we leave the house, picking two books out of five that she wants me to read to her, what stuffed animal she wants to sleep with, etc.

(5) Pick your battles

Children with ADHD struggle with impulse control and emotional regulation, so understand your child and be mindful of their struggles. Praise them for their accomplishments, and unless they are putting themselves or someone else in danger, try to ignore the small stuff. This promotes a calmer environment for you and your child. It’s a win-win!

(6) Choose quality over quantity

It is better to give your child ten minutes of interaction without distraction (checking your phone, answering an email, thinking about something else) than twenty minutes with numerous interruptions. I spend ten minutes a day with Brielle everyday doing “fun time”. During these ten minutes, she gets to pick any activity she wants to play with me (within reason, of course), and there are no phones, computers, or any other distractions. Kids need attention and they want to feel like they have some control.

This is especially true for children with ADHD because there is so much that isn’t within their control. This daily activity honors both of those components. My daughter knows this is something we do together each day, and it can never be taken away as a punishment.

(7) Be mindful of what you are feeding your child

I don’t give Brielle anything with Red-40, and I try to limit her sugar intake as much as possible. That’s not to say your child should never get a special treat. However, don’t give something with a ton of sugar and then be surprised when your child is bouncing off the walls. FYI- Brielle literally tried to bounce off the wall one time when she had a huge piece of cake- lesson learned!

(8) If possible, provide visual and auditory prompts when asking your child to do something

For example, when I am homeschooling my daughter I start off by pointing to my eyes and asking her to put on her “focusing eyes”, pointing to my ears and ask her to put on her “listening ears”, and pointing to my head and asking her to put on her “thinking cap”. I also read aloud instructions to her and underline or highlight key words. I then ask her to explain the instructions in her own words. We also have a saying that accompanies gestures, which is “Stop, Think, then Act”. Reminders are crucial with a child that has ADHD.

(9) Sleep

It’s important for every child to get adequate sleep, but especially a child with ADHD. I can tell when she didn’t get enough sleep the day before, as she’s even more hyper on those days. Establish a routine that provides ample time for sleep and naps, and stick to it as much as possible.

(10) Children with ADHD need breaks

Included in my homeschool/ remote learning routine are intervals and suggestions for breaks throughout the day. My daughter gets numerous breaks so she has the opportunity to “get her wiggles out”. If your child is at school, discuss with the teacher opportunities for brain breaks.  For example, letting your child get up and stretch or a being a helper that gives out something. When your kid gets home from school let your child play outside. Your child can just run or play active games such as Simon Says, tag, hopscotch or Red Light, Green Light. Make sure your child knows that asking for breaks is okay when doing homework. Set a timer for a specific amount of time for your child to recharge.

Reminder about parenting

I hope that these strategies and tips to help children with ADHD are helpful! Remember that parenting is challenging, and it is no easy task to parent a child with special needs. It will take time and patience to implement these strategies.  Just as it is important to be your child’s biggest advocate and supporter, don’t forget to do the same for yourself!

6 strategies and tips for parenting a special needs child

parenting my special needs child

I am the parent of a special needs child. My daughter has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). My job as her mother is the greatest responsibility I will ever have. Although my job is to help my daughter to learn and grow, she helps me learn and grow as well.

The truth is, the image I had of parenting is not reality. The smiling faces on Facebook and Instagram capture mere moments of real-life. It is easy to look at others and think that you are the only one who struggles. That is simply not the truth.

Just as it was essential for my well-being to accept the hard truth about my childhood, awareness and acceptance are of paramount importance when raising a child. The road to acceptance was not an easy road for me. When I enrolled my daughter in a Montessori Pre-K, the teachers and director voiced a lot of concerns about my daughter’s inability to do things that other kids were doing. I believed that the large class size and lack of warmness were the cause of everything. When they suggested she had Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) I scoffed. I was her mother, and my daughter was FINE.

adhd and SPD

adhd and spd

When we put her into a smaller school, she adjusted well. Still, transitions were very hard for her; she would raise her hand and give answers that had nothing to do with the questions, and she often rolled around on the floor at school when asked to pick an activity at the learning stations. Brielle knew her numbers and letters, could write paragraphs, and was reading, but she couldn’t focus in large groups and was always losing her belongings.

She was well-behaved at school, but at home she constantly threw tantrums and had no ability to self-regulate her emotions. Despite being 4, I couldn’t take her to any stores because she literally touched everything, and she would not sit still and follow directions. She would squeeze the cats, fall up and down stairs, and sought out constant movement.

Nothing I tried seemed to calm her down.

Despite my background as a Speech-Language-Pathologist, I had blinders on when it came to my own child. I wanted desperately to believe that I could somehow make it better on my own. I thought if I tried harder or did more, I could somehow make the problems go away. There came a point when I had to admit that an assessment was needed. Her health and happiness were more important than my denial.

My daughter was diagnosed by an Occupational Therapist with SPD. Two years later she was diagnosed with ADHD, executive functioning issues, poor working memory, and auditory processing issues. I went from being in denial that there was anything wrong, to demanding an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) be made for my child. I learned some valuable lessons along the way, and my hope is that I can make the road of parenting a special needs child less bumpy for others:

strategies to help parent a special needs child

(1) As parents, we must look at hard truths

It is better to err on the side of caution and get your child assessed ASAP rather than hope it will all go away. If there is a problem, the earlier there is intervention, the better. If there is nothing wrong, then you have nothing to lose by getting your child tested.

(2)  Labels should be used to help your child, not to define your child

Brielle has learning issues, but the labels associated with those issues do not define her. Who she is as a person is what defines her. Brielle is loving, bright, sensitive, and funny.

advocate for your child during the iep process

(3)  You must be your child’s greatest advocate, ally and supporter

Involve yourself in every aspect of the assessment and intervention process. For example, I observed every Occupational Therapy session, and I implemented each tool at home.

At the beginning of last year I started homeschooling my daughter. She had a psycho-educational evaluation done over the summer that determined she had ADHD. Subsequently, I found out that I could request a meeting with the Student Support Team (SST) at the public school because we pay taxes to the county. I fought for Brielle to get a full evaluation so that if she were eligible, she could have an IEP. I brought a list of my present and future concerns and was adamant that she needed testing for executive functioning and auditory processing. When they determined she indeed had weaknesses in those areas, I researched IEP goals for those delays as well as accommodations that she needed.

I made sure they were all implemented into the IEP.

I planned to have Brielle virtually attend Georgia Connections Academy, but I insisted that she get less screen time and only go online when it would be small groups. She does not focus in large online groups. They were unwilling to cooperate, so I am continuing her education with Bridgeway . I want to put her in an environment that sets her up for success, so I will continue to be her teacher until we find a school that is a good fit for her.

Stand up for your child and make sure they get the proper support and intervention. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. If you do not fight for your child, then who will? It is necessary that your child gets the proper support to thrive.

communicate with others

(4) Be open and honest with your child about their struggles and their needs

Having an open line of communication is necessary so there is no shame about it. Brielle understands that she difficulty starting and focusing on tasks because of her ADHD, and we have discussed strategies to help her. She knows that she can ask for a break if she needs to “let her wiggles out”. I have taught her various breathing exercises to help her “calm her mind”.

She will sometimes ask for a squeeze if she needs that pressure on her body (for sensory input), and she has a weighted blanket that she uses at night. When Brielle gets exasperated because she doesn’t understand something, I encourage her to try her best and I try explaining it to her in a different way. I also try to use as many visuals and manipulatives as possible to aid in her comprehension of tasks.

Brielle’s Kindergarten teachers thought she couldn’t grasp addition and subtraction number bonds; by the end of homeschool last year she was doing multiplication, division, and fractions. She may have different learning needs than others because of her ADHD and SPD, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t capable of learning. I won’t allow her to believe otherwise.

(5) Make sure to emphasize your child’s strengths

Brielle has a poor working memory, but her long term memory is amazing. She can recall in vivid detail incidences that took place years ago. Her hyperactivity has an upside as well. She never tires. Make sure your child knows that for every challenge there is also a strength.

(6) Parenting must vary based on the child, NOT the other way around

We must give our children what they need, not what we want them to need. Brielle has difficulty playing by herself and she is very accident- prone. I need to keep an eye on her because she is incredibly impulsive. She has difficulty playing independently because of her ADHD and SPD. I give her options of what she can do when she has “quiet time” (time where she plays by herself). She chooses what she’d like to do.

I encourage her to be her own friend and give her lots of positive reinforcement when she keeps herself occupied and plays independently. I believe in her fully, but I also needed to adjust my idea of how she should be. Brielle is Brielle, and I wouldn’t have her any other way.

awareness and acceptance 

awareness and acceptance

Awareness and acceptance– the key ingredients to parenting a special needs child. They have helped me to be the mother and person I am today. I am far from perfect, and that’s okay. I am aware of who I am, and I am aware of how special my daughter is. The sky is the limit. I am honored to be along for the ride.