Parenting Gently While Neurodivergent

It’s Autistic Acceptance and Appreciation Month, and I am here for it all month long. So, my first article in the month of April had to be something for my neurokin.

Acceptance is appreciation, and the high value of appreciation is such that to appreciate appreciation seems to be the fundamental prerequisite for survival. Mankind will not die for lack of information; it may perish for lack of appreciation.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

As a neurodivergent parent, do you nearly buckle under the strain of:

  • Seeming to be a step behind in planning and preparation even when you try your best?
  • Having difficulty fitting into social situations with other parents?
  • Struggling with the chaos and uncertainty of parenting?
  • Getting frustrated as chores fall by the wayside and responsibilities get neglected?
  • Doing your best to remember the things you want to remember?
  • Experiencing sensory overload on a regular basis?
  • Feeling like your temper is always set at 99 about to hit 100?
  • Managing your own needs while addressing the needs of your children?
  • Facing burnout, meltdown, or shut down?
  • Running out of spoons by breakfast?

Let me stop you right there and say, welcome, you are definitely in the right place. I feel like I am a whole, entire, hot mess all the time even when people on the outside looking in tell me it appears like I have everything together. The only reason there seems to be any semblance of order is because I become more and more rigid the more control I lose over a situation. But, the more I try to get things under control, the worse the situation becomes. It’s defeating. The smallest things set me off and I feel like there’s no escape. Taking a little time off here and there doesn’t help, because my brain won’t stop going. All I do is worry. I’ve had to start taking medication to get my brain to slow down enough to sleep. I had reached a critical point where I was about to go downhill fast and I had to save myself.

Ironically, I’m great in an actual crisis. Totally calm and clearheaded, but I fall apart completely in the aftermath and shutdown for days. Somehow, everyday life wrecks me and, even with coping skills, it’s a struggle. Then, I went and became a mom. My stress level went to about 5,000% and my coping skills barely cut it most days. I want you to know that I get it.

So, in the midst of all these difficulties, why bother to attempt peaceful parenting? This one’s easy. An aspect of my Autistic brain – that seems to be fairly common among Autistic people – is deep empathy that results in a strong orientation toward justice. The more I’ve gotten to know myself and embrace my neurology, the less tolerance I’ve had for cruelty, and children bear the brunt of so much cruelty. Laws in the United States protecting children are weak at best and children become outlets for their parents frustrations. I can’t take it. I can’t watch the videos that go around where children are being harmed in some way. It’s too much for me now. So, with my own kids, that need to treat them with decency and respect planted itself front and center in my mind. It’s an inherent imperative now. But, it’s a serious challenge to remain conscious about my parenting when my brain is in turmoil trying to survive this neurotypical world.

That’s why I have fallen back on my natural inclination toward patterns, routines, scripts, and formulas to give my children the very best I have. All my life, I have felt like there’s a virtual rolodex (I know I’m dating myself here) where I record information I need. Then, when I need it, that rolodex goes flying through the cards and lands on exactly what I need. I don’t see the rolodex in my mind eye, but I feel it. When I write articles for this blog, I often do so from that perspective. My pieces are how-tos. “Do it this exact way and see how it goes. Then adjust as needed.” I love step-by-step instructions, like the Three Rs and the Five Essential Steps of Emotion Coaching.

I want for peaceful parenting to be accessible to my neurokin. I don’t want y’all to see it as an amorphous concept that’s impossible to implement. A helpful goal is to put together a mental toolkit of step-by-step plans for how to address different issues and use those as a frame around which to pin your thoughts and intentions. For me, it has become almost second nature to call one of my solutions to mind when my children are having a hard time. Having a plan I can actually follow-through on helps me feel confident and calmer than I otherwise would.

Here’s a collection of Peace I Give articles that I hope will offer you a start on building your own tool kit:

My heart is with you, my neurokin, as you work toward building the resilience in your kids that they will need to brave a world that does not center their best interests.

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