As we say hello to October we also want to greet you- the amazing caregivers to the neurodiverse in your life. Whether you are a parent, guardian, friend, teacher, therapist, supporter, or service provider to those living with neurodiveristy, we want to acknowledge you.
As we enter fall we notice the changing colors and you, dear one, are no stranger to change, are you? You have learned to adapt, adjust, and have become accustomed to the variations that come to life as a caregiver to those who are neurodiverent.
This month, we are focusing on tools to help you parent and care give positively. We are familiar with the challenges that can arise and we want you to know that you are not alone. But our aim is also to empower you with tips and tools that can help you and the neurodiverse in your life thrive.
As a neurodiverse caregiver myself, I can relate to the struggle of being positive when faced with challenging behaviors, responses, and difficulties day after day. Within the last month, I had to step back to evaluate the level of stress I was dealing with because of all I had on my plate. Our family has had a lot of changes lately. I had to step back and adjust things so that we could flourish with all the new. So, today I want to share some tools I used that helped me manage this season of transition more positively.
It sounds simple, right? But during life with appointments, school, other responsibilities, our jobs, and so on we can quickly let life run us instead of us being in charge of it. Then what happens? We may find ourselves overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, and depleted. How come? Because we haven’t done a priority inventory and we are stuck in a cycle of trying to do all the things and feeling pretty unsuccessful. Can you relate?
These big transitions for my neurodiverse sons, quickly made me realize that they would need more attention, focus, and energy from me to adjust to these life-altering circumstances. Shifts in life for humans, in general, can be challenging but as caregivers to the neurodiverse, we know that life requires a different set of standards than what others may have to deal with. So, that must be a factor when we look at our lives and set our priorities.
Once we recognize our priorities it will be easier to start eliminating the things that may be non-essential to the life we want to live, based on what is important to us individually and what may be required for those in our care. But that, my friends, can give us the positive shift we may be desperate for.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed out my patience can wear thin, and I can have a hard time regulating my emotions. And we all know what a disaster that can be. Because if I am unregulated then when my children need help managing their big feelings we are going to be in trouble. I’ve discovered a great podcast called Beautifully Complex: Navigating Neurodiverse Parenting. Penny Williams, a parenting coach who specializes in assisting neurodiverse parents/caregivers, shares incredible tools and tips to assist caregivers who want to positively care for the neurodiverse in their lives.
Her last episode entitled Calming Techniques for Kids (and Parents) leads me to tool number two.
We are only responsible for ourselves. Have you heard that statement before? If so, we know that we have to be our first focus in difficult times. It reminds me of the airplane analogy,” Put on your oxygen mask first before you help anyone else with theirs.” In times of heightened emotions, if we can manage ourselves better we will be more successful in helping our neurodiverse loved ones through them. The podcast above gives some great recommendations for how to help you and your loved ones weave more calm into your life.
The final tool of our toolkit is…Even if it’s just 10-15 minutes.
There are apps out there like Calm that guide the listener in breathing exercises or meditations. You can find deep breathing and mindfulness videos on YouTube that have been proven to reset your nervous system. There are gratitude journal apps like Morning that can help give you a more positive outlook by focusing on what you’re grateful for. (I’ve personally started to use the Morning app and I love how it impacts me in just a few minutes a day to be more intentional about developing a more positive perspective.) If you’re a reader and getting to read for a few minutes a day would help you develop more joy, do it! Maybe taking a walk, watching your favorite show, or calling a friend would give you the pick-me-up you may need to help you increase your optimism. The point is, focusing on something that brings you joy will help increase the positive vibes in your life!
What a gift that there are tools we can use to help us manage the beautiful complexities of caring for the neurodiverse in our lives. I hope these tools will help you on your journey.
Until next month,
Family Resource Center Coordinator