Early last Friday I read the announcement from my child’s school. No school for four weeks. I was overwhelmed with fear and dread.
I realize that all parents are anxious about how the next few weeks will impact their lives, but when you have a special needs child with behavioral challenges it can seem overwhelming.
For most special needs kids, school provides necessary structure. For the parent, school is a an opportunity for much needed respite So, when I read the email, I got stressed. I started making sweeping plans, chore charts, school expectations, and rules. Then I ate some candy. None of that did anything to calm my nerves. So I decided to take a deep breath and get quiet.
Here are some tips to help navigate having your child home.
Put Your Oxygen Mask on First
I know we hear this all the time, but we seldom do it. So do it now. Take a deep breath and think about what you need to put in place to allow you space to breathe. Not for your child, but for you.
Your well-being matters. These next few weeks may be challenging. You need fill your cup with the practices that help you stay calm and at peace.
Make a list and pick the top three. Mine are a quiet space for morning prayer, exercise, and order. I know I will be a hot mess on day three if I do not have these anchors in my day. So ask yourself: what do I need? How do I fit it into life right now? Make a plan to adapt to your situation in the moment.
Lower Your Expectations
As you look at several weeks at home with our kids with challenging behaviors, lower your expectations. Most special needs kids have accommodations on their IEP. So write an IEP for your home. What needs to adapt to help your child be successful? What needs to adapt to help you and the other children be successful?
My child will be doing online school work, which requires that I monitor him. He needs supervision anytime he uses the computer. How will I manage to do this and get my own work done? I need to lower my expectations on what might get done. I also need to reassess what my expectations are for meals, housework, and life. Do the best you can and do not worry about the rest.
It can be disheartening to get on instagram. I can become discouraged by photos of families finger-painting or making homemade marshmallows. I want normal, not challenging behaviors. Realize that those families are stressed too. They have new challenges with their kids at home like we do. Their challenges are different than ours. Remember you never know what anyone else is going through. So stay in your lane and do what you need to do to make these next few weeks work for you and your family.
Schedule quiet time.
I was a homeschool mom for 19 years and my kids (even the teenagers) had a scheduled quiet time. It was a reset for each of us. Kids with behavioral changes do not always cooperate with this. Think of how you can make this happen. Maybe a movie? Video games you may not typically let them play? Find some way to get some afternoon quiet time so both you and the kids can get a break.
Get outside with your kids. Most kids with behavior issues do better if they move. It is recommended that we practice social distancing, but there are many places you could take your kids. I used to take our child to the high school track. I would walk around the track and she would run. If she was being oppositional she could throw a raging fit and I would still keep walking (with earbuds in). One up side of everyone staying home is that no one will be there is judge your child’s behavior!
Have a Break Glass (in Case of Emergency) Plan
There will be days that are long and hard. I have a kid with attachment issues so I know he will be oppositional most days. I know it. It is hard on him and on me. I need to show him mercy and compassion. I know I will not do this perfectly. So what is my plan when things are really hard?
Don’t break things. Instead, reach out to a friend, have margaritas and chips and salsa — it may have to be virtual. Go for a walk when your husband gets home, watch something that makes you laugh. Complete the stress cycle. In the excellent book “Burnout” by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, the authors suggest that physical activity completes the stress cycle. Have a plan in place for those most stressful days.
7. Re-evaluate Often
Look and see what worked and what didn’t, and give yourself grace. Adjust as you go, and remember that this isn’t forever. If every day looks different, that’s how it is supposed to be.
Please reach out and let me know how I can help!