Parenting a Child with Autism, Emotional or Behavioural Challenges?

By Andrea Graham

Help is at hand for this important work.

Yeah right! I hear from the battle weary or burnt out parents out there.

Parenting is an important job. Really important. I value your role first and foremost. Do you?

I offer an approach that will support you in your parenting and your personal wellbeing. Feeling inner calm amidst parenting work with squabbling siblings, tantruming two year olds or moody teens makes the job easier of course. Doing this day in and day out when your child’s development is stuck and the world is an overwhelming place for them, requires individualised support so please do seek help.

This process requires us to have a high level of self-awareness. Start with the small things so you can practice. While behavioural issues and autism are complex developmental, emotional and stressful problems and tailored support is important.

Here is a simple process that really helps:

  • Start with meeting baseline needs for connection, expressing emotions and helping your child feel safe and secure when anxiety and worries arise. Societal and cultural messages may have us trying to suppress children’s emotional expression far too early, with unrealistic expectations of emotional regulation before a child is at that developmental stage.
  • Stop what you are doing: Establish connection when your child comes to you, or expresses need through words, actions or behaviour. This one is a challenge when you are busy. Let’s be honest – when are you NOT busy? It’s important for self-esteem development, to feel worthy and prevent later emotional problems. Connection is the remedy for healing so many problems later in life including for prisoners, addictions and obviously loneliness. Let’s start now.
  • Empathise with your child’s experience, feelings and perspective. Repeat back their feeling words, or offer some words appropriate to their development. Use a soft, caring tone.
  • Say less. Words are much less important than caring connection. Information and teaching cannot be processed while emotions are elevated. It’s not about the facts as we see it, it’s an emotional process, not a cognitive one. Parental teaching needs to occur at another time. Avoid the temptation to vent your frustrations at your child – it’s a sign your self-care needs are in deficit.
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