Part III: MINDFULLY PARENTING YOUR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD

5/24/21

We have the choice of how to respond to our feelings.  While driving, if someone cuts us off we may feel like we want to run them off the road.  We experience the rage, the insult, the whatever, instantly within us.  But is it a good idea to listen to that feeling and perform the specific action that might result in injury or death to another?  Of course not.  We know better.

We experience feelings related choices all day.  These are opportunities for mindfulness.  Scenarios present themselves that cause us to feel offended, yet we know there are reactions that are just not rational options, so we don’t act on them.  When considering the driver cutting us off, in our anger we may choose a less hazardous but still unwise action like engaging that driver on some level.  I suggest instead, that we pause further, take a breath and think about our options.  We may say to ourselves after the initial cut off, ‘I am safe.  Nothing happened.  That person may be a jerk for cutting me off but I gain no advantage through confrontation.  In fact, I may cause myself actual harm.’  In addition, we may come to consider that maybe there’s a reason for that person’s actions.  Maybe it’s a stretch but it could be that they needed to get somewhere fast to help someone.  We will never know.  And we cannot assume.  That’s why we need to step back and consider alternative responses that will reduce our stress levels and create greater compassion for others.  And in the case of parenting, that other is your child.  Who is more deserving of your consideration, empathy and compassion? 

But don’t forget yourself.  Compassion for others begins with ourselves.  We cannot give what we do not have.  We cannot expel all of our energies everyday and not take time for ourselves to refuel.  Perhaps this may work in the short term but there is a price in the long term.  Taking time for you is necessary.

Child and Adolescent Psychologist, Dr. Marina Heifetz created the TINGLE approach to responding instead of reacting. 

  • (T) TIMEOUT FOR PARENTS: physical or mental ones depending on if it’s safe (for the child) to be alone. 
  • (I) INHALE-EXHALE: slowly breathe in and out to help calm the sympathetic nervous system.
  • (N)NAME IT: What am I feeling? What made me upset? What is my reaction related to?
  • (G)GROUND YOURSELF: Observe inner judgements of yourself or your child.  Focus on compassion and gentle kindness.
  • (L) LOOSEN UP: Turn on music, stretch, walk; release energy from your body. Where is your tension? This will help loosen up your mind to see the situation from another perspective.
  • (E) – EVALUATE YOUR MIND: Observe yourself: 
  1. Am I able to think clearly?
  2. Am I less emotionally aroused?
  3. Am I relaxed
  4. Can I find a solution that teaches my child something about life? 

Music is a wonderful tool that I use to relax.  I have a pre-set in my car radio to a SPA station.  I can literally go from PEARL JAM RADIO where I am feeling a high level of energy and switch to SPA where I can IMMEDIATELY feel my heart rate slow and my body and mind relax.  It is a remarkable thing. 

WHAT ARE SOME MINDFUL ACTIVITIES THAT CAN SUPPORT YOU AND YOUR CHILD?

Imagine combining behavior strategies with a mindful approach to implement scheduling, routine, daily life skills, communication and more, into the life of your child and the healthy functioning of your home.  Now imagine a calmer, happier and less stressful life. 

Every strategy we attempt can be made easier and more successful with mindful practice.  There is a natural learning curve for everything new that your child experiences.  It may involve resistance, lack of comprehension, refusals and meltdowns.  So, should you just give in or worse, give up?  Of course, the answer is no.  But without a strategy for taking care of yourself, if and when all of the accompanying negative feelings and consequences already mentioned appear, what is there to do?  

I suggest patience and acceptance.  And how do we get there?  Through mindfulness and mindful meditation.  Be here, now.  “…begin with the breath and intention.  Instead of getting caught up in the anxiety and worry of the future or the regret and sadness of the past, practice BEING HERE NOW.  Pay attention to what is around you at this moment. “ Autism Parenting Magazine

Meditation is sometimes perceived as too difficult.  ‘It’s too hard to clear my mind.’  And this can be true.  It is something that needs to be practiced.  I want to share some different forms of meditation that help you to focus, block out the world and connect you to the moment. .

First, there is guided meditation where you are being led to a more relaxed, open and conscious place.  This is a wonderful form of meditation that takes the burden off of you as driver of your own ship.  You can connect to the voice of the guide or teacher to visualize and connect.  Yoga is a form of guided meditation and a mindful exercise on it’s own; movement meditation. 

Another form is body scanning.  This is a way for you to relax your body one area at a time often starting at your head and moving down to your feet.  This can be guided by another, a pre-recording or self-guided.  

A method that has scientific evidence behind it and has been used with autistic children, children with other developmental disabilities and those with ADHD, is called Soles of Feet.  The Soles of the Feet Procedure involves, “ …shifting attention from the emotional trigger to the soles of (their) feet.   It was reported in a study (by Singh et al., 2011) involving adolescents with autism, “Aggressive acts were significantly reduced from 14-20 per week to 4-6 per week after (a) 3 year follow up period.   

Here is a guide for how to practice Soles of Feet:  

http://www.community-networks.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Meditation-on-the-Soles-of-the-Feet-Training-Instructions.pdf

Blissfulkids.com has a variety of mindful videos and activities to share and do with your children.  From self-kindness to how to include mindfulness in the home and classroom to mindfulness and growth mindset cards and more, you can explore multiple ways to make the addition of mindfulness in your home fun and manageable.  

Color, read, listen to music and dance.  Go for mindful walks and focus on nature.  Practice mindful listening and mindful seeing.  These and more ideas are available to discover online and ready to incorporate into your life and the lives of your children.  

Mindful Parenting according to Dr. Berin of the Child Mind Institute is,  “…as simple as practicing paying full attention to our kids, with openness and compassion, and maybe that’s enough at any moment.”  Here here!


BE LIKE A BISON

“Bison do not run away and seek shelter from a storm like many other animals do.

They go right through it and face the hardest parts so that they can come out on the other side of it much faster. 

In a time of transformation, it’s more important than ever to not hide from things that are uncomfortable.  Not to get stuck in old patterns  just because it feels safe.  But instead to go right into the storm of emotions and fear or whatever it might be.  And to face the things we know we need to change deep inside of us.  To bring it to the surface so that we can release it.”

Jonna Jinton

Peace and Keep Rising!

Try the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale: https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/mindfulnessscale.pdf

Published by riseup20

I am a retired teacher with a creative bent and I am excited to bring attention and assistance to parents and caregivers of children with special needs. Mark

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