I have never been a person who is affected by how someone else is doing…as much as I have been by being a mother. It deeply affects me on the days that Miss Sensory is having a tough time, I have an even tougher time. It’s even harder when some days are really magical and other days are completely impossible. I feel like a yo-yo never knowing which way I’m going, if I’m going to be pulled down or up.
I remember the toddler years when it was so difficult to get her ready to leave the house I just didn’t even leave. When I did need to leave, I remember repeating to myself “I am the parent, I can do this.” At this point we didn’t know we were up against special needs. I had no idea it could be so difficult to do simple tasks like getting dressed, changing a diaper, getting shoes on. She would scream and fight and I didn’t know why at the time (now I know it was her tactile system on extreme sensitivity). But, I remember being a Mom who was in charge, I’ve got this, I can do this. I felt strong, despite the challenge of trying to dress a little tornado. Somewhere along the way I’ve lost that.
So, yesterday was the completely impossible kind of day. And what happens to me is that I check out. I check out mentally and emotionally. It is the worst feeling. I end up wondering what is wrong with me without really realizing what’s going on. It’s this downward spiral. But today, today Miss Sensory woke up and was completely different and so was I.
And then I realized that I can do something about this. I don’t have to allow her bad days to bring me down. I am tougher than that, I have never let someone else’s bad attitude tear me down before so why is it different when it’s my child?
Maybe it’s because I feel so responsible for how she’s doing and how she’s feeling. But I can’t control that.
I can’t control that her body doesn’t respond normally to the environment around her and that she gets really angry about that.
I can’t control that emotionally her ability to regulate is non-existent and she goes from 0-100 in seconds.
I can’t control that she was born neurologically different and that life is tough for her.
I am not responsible for her un-happiness (Lord, knows I have done everything to change it!).
Our kids are going to have tough days, really tough days. They are going to be angry, mean, and unfortunately unhappy. But, I believe that I can be better and not be pulled down with them. So how can we overcome as parents?
Here’s a few things that I’ve found that helps build myself up on those bad days:
Step One: Recognize that your child is having a bad day and that doesn’t mean that you have to too. You are not a bad parent because your child is having a bad day. Stay strong and don’t get dragged down. Mentally separate yourself from their emotions and anger before it starts pulling you in. Try not to take it personally. It is not because of you that this is happening. You didn’t bring on the bad day.
Step Two: Create a mantra for those days. Something like, “She’s having a bad day but I’m ok. I am strong and I’m a good Mom. Just because she’s having a bad day doesn’t mean that I have to too.” It’s that positive self-talk, what do you wish someone else would say to you? Write it down and remind yourself often.
Step Three: Check yourself. How are you doing? Did you get enough rest? Are you hungry? Check to make sure that all of your needs are being met. Sometimes when our needs aren’t being met we start to get a little cranky ourselves. So in order to be your best, take care of yourself first!
Step Four: Is there anything else in your life that is causing you to get pulled in to your child’s bad day? Maybe you had a bad day at work? Maybe it was a fight with your spouse? Maybe you are PMSing? All of those things can contribute to your mental strength and ability to stay strong in the midst of the battle. Give yourself a little grace that if something is bothering you too, your child may be picking up on that. Breathe, relax, and let go for the moment.
Step Five: Don’t be afraid to admit if you need help. Parenting a challenging child is tough, beyond tough. In all honesty, it is the toughest thing I have ever done. It’s been so much easier to get her help, than it has been to get us help as parents. This year one of our goals was to focus on us. After everything we have gone through, it was in our best interest to individually and as a couple speak with a psychologist. I still have a hard time admitting this, I want to feel like I’ve got this as a mom. But the reality is that we have a child that is more challenging and with that we need a village equipped to help us. Just talking with Mom friends isn’t enough, they don’t have the same challenges that we do. Talking with professionals who are familiar with the challenges of a special needs child, really helps me focus on what I need to do as a Mom.
Step Six: Focus on the things you are doing. Is your child loved, fed, dressed, warm, safe? These are the basic needs your child has and my guess is, like me you are doing an amazing job with those!! I would have to say, I am pretty awesome at those!! Woo-hoo I’m doing something right! Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of the simple things we need to take care of in life. Reconnect with those. Having trouble feeling the love?— what does your child love to do? Read books? Grab a book and ask your child if they want to read it with you (just be prepared for them screaming no, and that’s ok if they don’t want to right now, my guess is that sometimes you don’t feel like doing your favorite thing all the time either)?
REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT.
This isn’t an overnight fix. But, given some time and practice you will build your mental strength and resilience when faced with the difficult days. Not every day you will feel like you’ve got it, in fact most days you probably won’t. Overtime, when you look back, it’s amazing how far you’ve come. Keep going.
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