News & Articles
16th Apr 2018
Welcome to the Inside Out Child and Family blog! This blog speaks to parents who are seeking guidance, connection and insights into parenting with confidence and helping kids reach their full potential. We hope to provide a space where parents can come for inspiration, guidance and useful resources to support them through what can be an often stressful, exhausting and worrying journey – particularly when things are not necessarily going as you hoped or expected. Who is writing the blog We are a team of psychologists who specialise in working with kids and teens who are experiencing social, emotional or developmental challenges. We draw upon our professional training, the latest research in the fields of child development and psychology, and the experiences of the families we support to create content we hope you will find meaningful and useful. Each contributor to the blog will bring their own areas of passion, expertise and experience to share. What to expect Our blogs will be a combination of informative pieces, reflections, tips and free resources to support you in your journey. The topics we will cover are based on what we hear from parents and families about their biggest concerns and questions about their child and family’s development and wellbeing. We aim to release a new blog each week, so you can feel a regular injection of support and inspiration. How to stay connected If you would like to keep updated with our latest blogs, tips, insights and free resources, please sign up to our monthly e-newsletter. When you sign up, you will be given a link to a free Emotional Regulation Guide for Parents E-Book. Let us know what you think We welcome feedback and would love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments about the content we provide. You can do this by emailing us. If you need professional assistance Please note that the blog and resources we share are not intended to replace professional counselling or advice. If you are experiencing distress or would like to speak with someone, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Help Line on 1800 551 800. Alternatively, you might like to book an appointment with you General Practitioner to find out more about support options in your area. If you would like to book an appointment with one of our psychologists, please contact Inside Out Child and Family Psychology on (03) 8640 9934.
3rd Jul 2018 | Parenting
This is blog no. 6 in our 6-week series on How to survive (and even thrive) parenting your child with neurodevelopmental differences. It’s common and even expected that your relationship will be impacted by having a child with complex needs. For some, this can bring you closer together in a united effort to understand and best support your child. For others, feelings of grief, anger, helplessness, daily stress and worries can sap the positive energy and connection from your relationship. The good news is that this doesn’t have to stay that way. When given time to adjust and by turning toward each other through this process, many parents can again feel like a team and re-imagine their relationship and family life. It can be difficult to get on the same page with your partner. It is expected that you will each bring different experiences of being parented that shape your mindset and approach. It’s also expected that you will respond and understand your child’s diagnosis or needs in unique ways. This difference is OK. What’s most important is that you take the time to develop your parenting relationship and approach in a conscious way. Supporting each other through this process can make a big difference in your experience of parenting as well as your relationship. To have a strong parenting relationship, you need to talk to each other about your views, feelings and collaborate in problem solving. You need to establish what’s important to you as individuals, and where you can come together to work toward a shared vision. Here are a few important ways to help you move toward a more conscious and collaborative approach to parenting. Take time to identify and discuss your values as a parent, partner and family. A values-based questionnaire can be helpful to get you started. Do this independently and then come together with your partner to see what values you share, and where you may differ. This can give insight and empathy into each other’s differences and highlight where your values align or complement each other. Values are a direction (you can always take another step toward West), not a destination or place of perfection or completeness (you never actually get to ‘West’). It can be more helpful to ask yourself, what step or action can I take right now that moves me in the direction of my values as a parent/partner? Or in what way can I support the values or needs of my partner in this moment? Work toward developing a shared understanding of your child and how you want to parent. This may not come easily and can take a different path for each parent. The more that both parents are involved in specialist appointments, school meetings, and day to day activities of the child’s life, the easier it is for you to develop a shared understanding. Take control and responsibility for what you can do to ‘turn the ship’. Don’t wait for your partner to see it your way or for everything to be lined up. Make the effort to listen to, turn toward and meet your partner where they are in this moment. See your partner relationship as a separate entity that needs its own nurturing and attention. Spending time doing things you enjoy and being intimate as a couple can bring you closer – and remind you who you are beyond parents. See our tips of developing a support network to assist you to make this time. This is important for your relationship with your children too. Look beyond the ‘business’ of raising kids, therapy and life to focus on play and enjoying each of your relationships for at least some time every day. Get organised and share responsibilities. Stress and conflict is often related to the feeling that things are out of your control. Try to put some family routines into action and plan-out who will be responsible for what tasks and when. Having visuals to communicate routines and plans with your children, as well as a diary or planner you share with your partner, can help everyone feel more in control. One idea is to colour-code your diary based on type of activity, such as therapy/specialists, household, daily tasks, school, work, socialising, play, rest, and relationship. This way you can clearly visualise how much time is allocated to each and you can work to adjust this to fit a more balanced and manageable diary over time. Doing this together can help to ensure you have a balanced share of responsibilities as well as time for self-care and your relationship. Make time for collaborative problem solving and communication. This normally works better when you have a regular, set time in your schedule. As problems arise, note them down and try to postpone addressing them until the allocated time. This way, you can come together with a positive intention of working through problems (not simply reacting) and with less distractions. It also gives you space to calm and minimise unhelpful automatic responses (i.e. criticising, blaming, yelling). Sit down and look at your list before starting to consider what is really important and needs to be addressed. Often, many of the problems that felt huge at the time, are naturally resolved or no longer feel as big and can be addressed quickly. Having some basic rules about how you communicate during this time is also important (check with your values to guide what these rules may look like). Know when to get help. If either or both of you are feeling stuck with grief, anger, anxiety or despair, it’s important to get professional support from trained psychologist or counsellor. Even if you are going along OK, setting aside time to talk about your relationship with a professional can really cement the above steps and help your to be the best you can be, together. Taking care of your relationship and planning how you can better work together is important for any relationship. But it is an especially important part of surviving and thriving parenting a child with neurodevelopmental differences. If you would like more information or speak to one of our psychologists who are passionate about collaborative and systemic approach to therapy and early intervention, please get in touch today.
25th Jun 2018 | Parenting
This is blog no. 5 in our 6-week series on How to survive (and even thrive) parenting your child with neurodevelopmental differences. A resilient parent is not someone who shrugs things off, and simply endures suffering or hardship with a tough upper lip or their head down. Rather, to be resilient involves reflection, resourcefulness, the courage to be open and learn into your emotions and experiences, and knowing your best asset is your support network. You are probably more resilient than you realise and already have overcome many setbacks, challenges or mistakes in your life journey. This means you already have strengths that you can draw upon. On the other hand, you may also be turning to responses or mind-traps that no longer serve you. Why mindset matters Our mindset can significantly impact the degree to which we feel stress, how we respond to stress, and its impact on our wellbeing and parenting experience. It can also influence how quickly we can pick ourselves back up after a challenging experience, ‘bad day’ or set back. This is particularly important for parents of kids with complex needs, as challenges, set- backs and uncertainty are a frequent occurrence. Stress has a physiological response. The more worked up we get, the less able we are to draw on effective problem solving skills or connect with those we care about. You are seeing your world from your ‘fear brain’, which perceives problems in a life or death intensity and in a black or white manner. This means you are going to respond in more impulsive and unhelpful ways. Strengthening your mindset The first step toward strengthening your mindset involves considering your own beliefs, experiences and values and how they ‘show-up’ in the way you parent or respond to your child. It means becoming conscious of your automatic responses and asking whether they are serving you. From here, it is possible to explore different ways of thinking about and responding to your parenting experience. Here are eight mindset-shifts to help you reframe unhelpful or stress-inducing responses: Embrace imperfection. We often feel comfortable and love imperfect people because they give us permission to be ourselves. We appreciate people who mess up, laugh at themselves and are open about their mistakes and limitations. This is also a great message to give our kids – that they can be loved and celebrated because of their uniqueness, quirks and imperfections. Imperfect is, without a doubt, a much more refreshing and positive way to be. Check-in with what expectations or measure you are using and let some go. Practice self- compassion. Give yourself validation and kindness for whatever comes up for you. Ask, what would be a kind and helpful way for me to respond to this? What would I say or do if this was my child or friend feeling this way? Focus on relationship. So much of the stress of parenting a child with complex needs is the pressure to ‘fix’ and address behaviour or deficits. This almost always comes easier if you focus on your relationship first. Let go of pushing and battling for a moment, and just be with your child in a present, curious, open and non-judgemental manner. Perhaps you can even find a way to connect or have fun together. Drop the Rope. Often it can feel like you are in a perpetual tug of war, with your kids or with yourself. Winning the ‘battle’ is not always possible or worth it. Plus, the irony of tug of war is that more you pull, the stronger your opponent pulls and the bigger the problem becomes. This can be a helpful image or metaphor to compliment point no. 3. Notice when you are battling and let go of the rope. Hang out for a while. Even if you don’t like what’s pulling on the other end. This can often help you see more closely what is going on and frees you up to take another pathway forward. Be curious and get to know your feelings and experiences. Pause and take a few moments to be curious and open to what you are feeling, thinking and experiencing. If this is too difficult or abstract, start by tuning to your senses – notice what can you see, hear, smell, feel in this moment. This can create the space you need to slow your stress or fear brain, feel safe, and be ready to make your next ‘conscious’ action. It’s in this space where you can feel empowered to respond in the way you most value. Pay attention to the small things and pleasant experiences. Don’t forget to be mindful also of the small pleasures and moments of joy in your day. Take a photo, stop to smell a flower, feel the sun on your face, stretch your body in a way that gives comfort, fully taste a piece of fruit, or notice how it feels to laugh during play with your child. Often these moments are dismissed by our problem-solving mind that gets us stuck on something that did not go so well or potential problems in the future. Learn to fail or fail to learn. See mistakes or limitations as an opportunity to learn and grow. Just because something didn’t go well today, or there are problems still unresolved, this doesn’t reflect who you are (or your child). Navigating parenting is continuous learning curve and adjustment, and failing is an essential component of this. Without mistakes, we can’t get the information we need to change or grow. Next time you fall short or something doesn’t work out with your child, try adding the word ‘yet’ or ‘this time’ to the end of your self-assessment. Instead of “I’m not good at…”, “I can’t…”, or “I never…”, rephrase your comments to “I’m not good at…, YET” or “I’m learning to…” or “I didn’t get it today, but maybe next time”. Acknowledge what you have done well. This doesn’t mean what you have done perfectly. Remind yourself of all the things you have done and any little successes in your day. Write them down! Be fair to yourself and your child about what is a success, even if it may seem small to others or what you see on social media. If getting to an appointment, getting your child to eat breakfast, or doing 10 min of therapy together is a big deal for you and your child then acknowledge this and the tenacity you have shown to make it happen. Beyond your own mindset work, don’t forget to look to your support network and your team. Whilst taking responsibility for your own responses and experiences is important, the ultimate factor that strengthens our resilience is having great support and remembering you are not alone. Ask, how am I doing? What do I need to keep showing up the way I want? Ask for help if you need it. If you would like more information or speak to one of our psychologists who are passionate about collaborative and systemic approach to therapy and early intervention, please get in touch today.
2nd Jun 2018 | Parenting
This is blog no. 4 in our 6-week series on How to survive (and even thrive) parenting your child with neurodevelopmental differences. Managing an effective support team for your child with neurodevelopmental differences can feel like managing a small business and demands many of the same skills as CEO of a start-up! You have to think about recruiting the right people, sourcing funding and resources, managing a limited budget, coordinating appointments and diaries, keeping track of goals, outcomes and performance reviews, and establishing effective communication systems. No wonder it can be incredibly stressful and challenging. But it’s worth it! I hope these ideas from my experience supporting families and working in multi-disciplinary teams can be of assistance in your journey. This blog will address: Why a team approach is important Selecting the right people to work with your child and family Practical ideas for improving collaboration Why a team approach matters The nature of neurodevelopmental and learning difficulties are such that your child may benefit from expertise and interventions from different professionals. Unfortunately, when professionals do not have a team or collaborative approach, services can be fragmented. This can mean disjointed goals, advice and approaches, and ultimately more confusion and reduced outcomes for your child. When professionals, families and educational systems work together to form a coherent plan and delivery of supports, the benefits are many: reduced parent stress; improved efficiency; better child outcomes and generalisation of skills; and even the professionals are happier and better supported. Recruiting your Dream Team First you need to first have a clear idea about your child’s needs and priorities, and what will work for your family. You may have been through multiple assessments and lists of recommendations, but still feel lost without a clear map of where to go next. Sitting down with a professional you trust, such as your paediatrician, or contacting an independent advice agency such as AMAZE, can help you make sense of all the information, prioritise your child and family’s needs, and map out a possible plan of where to start. There are multiple avenues to finding what services are out there. The best place to start is with your paediatrician who will have a good understanding of your child’s needs and local services. There are also agencies and networks from which to access a database of service providers, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Asperger’s Victoria, and AMAZE. Connecting with other parents can also be a way to learn from each other or share what has worked. The next step is to interview. Prepare a set of questions to determine whether a professional or service is right for you. You will want to find out about their relevant experience, qualifications and therapy approaches. You also want to know whether their service is accessible for you (i.e. location, availability, flexibility) to ensure you can engage consistently. Other important considerations are whether the service feels welcoming and safe for you and your child to be yourselves, fits with your values, and has great systems in place for communication and collaboration. If you’re unsure what to ask, check out our list of helpful questions to ask when choosing a service provider. Ensure you receive a clear treatment and service delivery plan that fits with your goals and family. This includes understanding the theory and reasoning behind the services and how it will look such as time, frequency, who is involved, cost, how outcomes will be measured, and what resources are needed. It’s important to verify that the therapy and services you engage with are evidence based and the best available. See Raising Children’s Network for an overview of most widely available therapies and the evidence behind them. Schools are an essential part of your child’s team and wherever possible should be collaborators in your child’s support plan. Connect with key persons (i.e. teachers, leadership, disability coordinator) and find out how your child’s school are able to support your child’s individual developmental goals and successful engagement. Tips for working collaboratively Parents should be welcomed and encouraged to be involved in therapy as much as possible. In fact, your input and learning is essential to the success of the therapy. Ask how your service provider involves parents and families. Communication is key. Identify preferred mode of communication with you and your team. Be clear about what key information should be shared; updating progress, any stuck points or behaviours of concern, problem solving, sharing resources and celebrating successes. One option is to set up a shared file with a simple template that make it easy to enter information as well as keep updated. Schedule regular team meetings where goals, actions and outcomes are established and reviewed. If you are not in the same location, you can create an online meeting space with various great options, such as Appear.in or Zoom. Consider identifying a team leader, or a case-manager, to help coordinate services and offer extra support. This is like having a manager who overseas and coordinates resources and information, service delivery, communication, and advocacy for you and your child. At least part of your child’s therapy should take place in their everyday environment. This is to ensure a full appreciation of their needs are understood and support is practical to where they spend most of their time. This also helps with communication and modelling of approaches with others involved in your child’s care. The right team, working together, can make all the difference for your child and family. If you would like more information or speak to one of our psychologists who are passionate about collaborative and systemic approach to therapy and early intervention, please get in touch today.
14th May 2018 | Parenting
This is blog no. 3 in our 6-week series on How to survive (and even thrive) parenting your child with neurodevelopmental differences. As you embark on the journey of understanding what is going on for your child, the focus tends to be on their deficits, problems or ‘what is wrong’. You may feel at a loss as to why your child is not responding to your parenting efforts or why they are not able to fit-in or cope in everyday situations. The opinions and expectations of family, friends, educators and even strangers can feel heavy on your shoulders. This can be an overwhelming experience and rarely provides a helpful way forward. You soon learn that you need a new way of understanding your child and parenting. Parenting a child with neurodevelopmental differences takes a customised approach It takes openness and flexibility to leave behind your expectations and assumptions about child rearing (and those of others) and delve into finding a way that works for your unique child and family. Yet at the same time, your child shares the same needs as other kids – to feel understood and validated, to be supported with big feelings, and given opportunities to explore, learn, fail and grow in a safe space. So how do I find what works for my child? Cultivating curiosity toward your child’s experience, perspective and needs can have a dramatic effect on how you feel, respond and relate to your child. It means identifying not only your child’s areas of difficulty but their areas of strength and unique character traits that will help them to thrive. When you understand that ‘problematic’ behaviour is usually reflective of a situation or developmental challenge that your child is not yet able to manage effectively on their own, you can see it as an opportunity to connect with and support your child to learn. It’s with this information that you can make more confident decisions about how you respond and how you can best support your child to grow. Becoming a detective will help you uncover the truth about your child’s behaviour and needs. ‘Listening’ to clues about what your child’s behaviour is telling you and ‘looking’ for their strengths, can guide how you can best respond to help them to learn and thrive. Six questions to take you from frustration to connection Next time your child is struggling, not acting how you expect, or having an angry outburst, pause and wonder about the answers to these questions. You may even ask your child directly: What are you feeling and what is this like for you? What emotion is your child expressing or trying to manage right now? Often behaviours of concern reflect a difficulty to regulate or process feelings such as disappointment, excitement, frustration, anxiety, tiredness or sadness. What do you need to feel calm and safe? If you child is anxious or dysregulated, they are less likely to be able to engage in problem solving or have a communicate effectively with you. Be curious and explore what your child needs to feel safe and calm. How can I help you? Is this situation demanding skills or abilities that your child has not yet mastered? What would they need in order to be more successful at this time? They may need help but are not sure how to ask for this. How can you adjust the situation or task to make it easier for your child to cope or achieve? What strengths or superpower could we call upon right now to get through this? What strengths or interests can be drawn upon to help your child navigate the situation or learn this new concept? Is there another way to present this situation or demand that best fits with their strengths and abilities? If you have not thought about your child’s strengths before, check out the VIA strengths survey for children via the positive psychology webpage of Penn University for some ideas. What helps you feel at your best and lights you up? Has your child had opportunity to engage in what lights them up, or helps them feel good? What helps them to stay at their best? We all feel depleted or resentful if when faced with multiple stressors or demanding situations, or not given time to do the things that help us relax, feel good and have a sense of mastery. Can I show you another way? Consider what would being successful or a more helpful response would look like in this situation. Model, use visual cues, or offer another way for your child to respond or communicate their needs in this situation. Try it for yourself Imagine how you would feel if someone paused to wonder or ask these questions of you when you are feeling overwhelmed, struggling with a task, or have made a mistake. What about if you talked to yourself this way? Compare this to being criticised, dismissed or judged. Just like your child, I bet you would feel more accepted, safe to express yourself in more helpful ways, and be more open to learning and seeking help. Be patient, this is an evolving process Don’t be concerned if you can’t answer these questions for your child right now. This just shows you where you may need to look closer and is part of the journey of getting to know your unique child. It takes time, mistakes along the way, and re-adjustment as your child grows and situations change. By shifting toward a mind-set of curiosity, you will continue to find answers and opportunities for growth – and importantly – have a much more meaningful and confident parenting experience along the way. Stay tuned for blog 4 in this series where we discuss how to work collaboratively and get the most out of your child’s support team. Remember to join our monthly newsletter to stay in touch with our community and to receive free downloadable products. Get more ideas about how to thrive parenting your child with neurodevelopmental differences at our parent workshops and support group. It’s a great way to get useful insights, resources and meet other parents on a similar journey.
28th Apr 2018 | Parenting
This is blog no. 2 in our 6-week series on How to survive (and even thrive) parenting your child with neuro-developmental differences. Having a child with neurodevelopmental differences can cause upheaval to your social life and confidence accessing the community. Many parents feel shame and anxiety getting out and about and being around people (perhaps even friends and family) who may judge, offer unhelpful advice or simply lack understanding. Not to mention worry of how your child is going to cope in social situations or without you if leave them in the care of someone else. You may feel pressure to be there for your child at all times or feel too exhausted to make time for your own relationships. I also hear many parents believe that they should be able to handle it all on their own and feel guilty asking for help. It’s therefore no surprise that your social support system may be running on low or empty. Yet, parenting a child with neurodevelopmental differences means it’s even more important you have outlets and support systems if you are to continue showing up each day as the parent you want to be. Why developing your social supports matter! Connecting with parents who are going through a similar journey can be an invaluable way to find connection, hope and learn from each other. Having time to be you and nurture the multiple aspects of who you are provides a more robust sense of self-worth, value and competence, This helps you stay strong and turn up as the parent you want to be when challenges or set-backs strike. Parents who have better social supports express better overall mental wellbeing, are more likely to stay together, and report more enjoyment and confidence in parenting. Practical help can minimise the daily exhaustion and allows for time away to help rejuvenate, inspire and gain perspective. How to strengthen your social supports Connect with groups and networks where parents of children with neurodevelopmental differences can come together. Check out Asperger’s Victoria, AMAZE, Meet Up, or ask your local service provider to find out about support groups in your area. Join our support group for parents in South Melbourne Ask your school community if they have any groups or events, or put a notice in the newsletter to see if other parents want to connect. Check out recreational activities and spaces that are neuro-divergent friendly. Your child can be engaged in activities, whilst you take a break or debrief with other parents. Filter through your current relationships to make room for those people who support and energise (not criticise, dismiss or undermine). Talk to family and friends about what you are going through and how they can support you. This becomes easier the more confident you feel about how you want to parent and your child’s needs. The ways in which you spend time with friends and family may need to evolve. For example, instead of an all-day bbq with lots of people or a noisy restaurant where your child can’t cope for a long period of time (or at all), explain what accommodations you would need to make getting together possible for you. Let go of relationships are no longer supportive, or toxic. Relationships that are no longer viable or aligned with your path tend to naturally fade. This can be a source of hurt or grief, but at the end of the day it’s better to focus on those relationships where support, love, acceptance and respect are shared. Prioritise and plan regular time with friends. This makes it more likely to happen and reduces the need and effort to plan, coordinate and organise. For example, schedule a regular coffee date or walk with a friend so you commit to setting this time aside and have the back-up you need already sorted. Form social connections and friendships that align with your interests outside of parenting. Joining a group class or club of your interest can be a great way to meet people with similar interests whilst enjoying something you love. Ask for help and outsource Find services or ask for help in your network to assist with household jobs such as grocery delivery, cleaning, meal preparation, or washing. Seek out options for regular (and planned) respite. Whether through a formal respite service, childcare, babysitter, weekend programs, or with the help of a neighbour or friend. Take turns with your partner or support person to set aside regular uninterrupted time for you to get out of the house or take a break. Spending time with supportive friends and family, learning to ask for and accept help, and connecting with others going through a similar journey can seriously improve your wellbeing and ability to show up in the way you want for your kids. You may like to start by joining our parent support group where you can share and hear from other parents about how they are negotiating the demands and isolation that can come parenting a child with neurodevelopmental differences.
20th Apr 2018 | Group Session
The Secret Agent Society (SAS) Can Help Your Child to be More Calm, Confident and Successful in Social Situations The skill of reading social situations and then acting appropriately unfortunately does not come naturally for some. This is often the case for children with a diagnosis of Autism or Asperger’s (ASD) for whom the complexities of navigating social interactions cab be daunting and anxiety-provoking. This can have a huge impact on your child’s social and emotional wellbeing if they do not receive support. The good news is that these complex social skills can be taught! And the Secret Agent Society (SAS) program is an evidence-based program designed to do just that in a fun and engaging format. What is the Secret Agent Society (SAS)? SAS is an evidenced based program created by Australian clinical psychologist, Dr Renae Beaumont. SAS teaches children to become ‘social detectives’ as they are taught how to identify and then respond to different social cues and situations. Parents are taught how to help support their child to become a social detective outside of the group, in order to help teach these skills and the concept of theory of mind beyond rote learning. The SAS program is designed to teach children the skills to be able to: Recognise emotions in themselves and others Express emotions in appropriate ways Cope with anxiety and anger Talk and play with others Cope with change Build and maintain friendships Solve friendship problems Cope with mistakes and losing Recognise and deal with bullying and teasing. The SAS program is a captivating program that includes an animated computer game, Helpful Thought Missile action game, Challenger board game and Secret Message Transmission Device game, that have all been designed to help children learn new social and emotional skills in a fun environment. How will SAS help my child? SAS is an engaging and evidence-based program which helps children learn how to feel happier, calmer and braver. It also teaches them how to make friends and keep them! The program includes 9 weekly sessions with your child that run for 90 minutes, plus a 3-month and 6-month follow up session. New skills are explored and reinforced each week through conversation, role play and games. Parents and schools are an integral part of the group program and receive resources and support to help young ‘secret agents’ develop and generalise new skills to the home and school environments. At the end of the program, your junior detective will graduate as a ‘secret agent’, armed with the social and emotional tools they need to continue their work in the ‘real world’. How can I find out more or register my interest? If you are If you are interested in finding out more about the SAS program for your child, you can visit our groups page or events page to book a free information session. Or alternatively, please contact us on (03) 8640 9934, or via email at email@example.com
19th Apr 2018 | Parenting
How to survive (and even thrive) parenting your child with neurodevelopmental differences Are you raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, developmental delay, learning difficulties, sensory and emotional dysregulation, or all the above? There’s no question that raising a child with neurodevelopmental differences is extra tough. It demands an extra level of energy and resilience to overcome the unique challenges and stressors you and your child face. In fact, it really necessitates that you throw out many expectations you may have had, and continually adjust your mind-set and approach to parenting. If you are like the many parents I work with, you want to help your child succeed and reach their potential, but you also want to feel peace, purpose and joy in parenting and in life. You still want to have meaningful relationships, pursue your own goals and interests, all while being the parent your child needs. This may seem impossible and unfortunately there is no manual for raising your unique child. However, I assure you there are many meaningful ways to have a more confident and purposeful parenting experience. Thankfully, there are some common experiences, strategies and stages of growth that form part of many parents’ roadmap. By sharing these lessons over the course of this six-stage blog series, I hope to provide a practical framework to support you in your own journey. Rather than a rigid formula, please consider the following steps as connected and ever-evolving processes that will move as you and your family grow and change over time. 1. Establish the right support network for you and your family Social connection and support is one of the biggest predictors of resilience (your capacity to recover from difficulties), and this is especially true for parents of children with neurodevelopmental differences. Social support refers to the quality and accessibility of supports that not only focus on your child’s needs, but help to support you and your family. Having a child with neurodevelopmental differences can often lead to changes in your social networks and creates unique barriers. Adjusting to a new (and improved) support network and rallying together your team is an essential component of surviving and thriving. 2. Delve into learning and understanding your child’s development and what their behaviour is communicating. This refers to the process of getting to know your child and making sense of their unique developmental needs, strengths and challenges, what works, and the “why’s” of their behaviour. Doing the work to understand what your child’s behaviour is communicating and learning ways to best support their needs are all invaluable steps to take. No doubt you are on this journey already. This empowers parents to feel more confident about their ability to connect with and support their child to thrive. 3. Establish a collaborative relationship with your child’s support team The right team, working together, can make all the difference for your child and family. It is important to engage with professionals that listen, value and encourage your ideas and provide support in a way that fits your circumstances, values and priorities. Then there is the dilemma of how to get everyone on the same page and working together. It can feel like running your own start up or being the director of a small business; from recruiting, coordinating appointments and goals, monitoring outcomes and maintaining effective communication. This is no easy process, but it is one we hope to support you in. 4. Dedicate space to nurture your wellbeing and mindset Raising kids with neurodevelopmental differences can really impact your physical and emotional wellbeing. Many parents go through patterns of grief, fear, blame, anger and uncertainty with limited support. You are also juggling appointments, challenging behaviours, disturbed sleep, fussing eating and ‘all of the above’. This inevitably leads to burnout and helplessness if no care is put into your wellbeing at the same time. Taking care of your wellbeing is essential if expect to show up in the best way for you and your family each day. Mind-set refers to your internal processes and coping mechanisms. From how you make sense of what is happening, how you respond to stressors and experiences in your day, and your beliefs and values surrounding yourself, your child and role as parent. Identifying and strengthening helpful coping mechanisms (and identifying those that are not) can make a huge difference to your experience of parenting. 5. Work on strengthening your relationships and family system Relationships are often overlooked and the first to get bumped off the priority list when considering your family’s wellbeing and resilience. Parents process and respond in different ways to parenting at the best of times, not to mention when grappling with a diagnosis or managing compounding challenges. However, there is hope. Many parents do find a way to come together as a team, communicate more effectively, and provide much needed support, fun and companionship for each other. Support for siblings, effective family systems (i.e. routines, communication, rituals) and the home environment are all important components of your survival. Over the next 5 weeks we will break these points down into more detail to assist you on your journey to survive and even thrive parenting your child with difference. Many parents take it all on themselves and expect to be a super-human parent. Going it alone is inevitably a set up for overwhelm and exhaustion. What you will have noticed about the above steps, is that most of them involve establishing relationships and support networks for you and your family. This is why a key mission of Inside Out Child & Family Psychology is to develop a community of support and resources to help you along this journey. Along with sharing resources here, you can also join out parent support group where you can meet, share and learn from other parents who have a child with neurodevelopmental disorders. If you are seeking further support or if you want to learn more about these techniques, please contact us to discuss how we can help support you and your family. Remember to join our monthly newsletter to stay in touch with our community and to receive free downloadable products.
Get free tips and insights about
mental health direct to your inbox