Parenting with Self-Care in Uncertain Times Parents, we know this is not easy. Many of us our parents, too. Working in our home office, hoping you don’t hear our kids in the other room, either bickering or playing loudly. When we leave our office, we are submerged into a lifestyle of parenting through a pandemic, just like you. We are doing our best to juggle it all, too. Nothing about this is easy and no one was prepared to do this. We are collectively struggling through a crisis with no clear end in sight.
Throughout this time, we’ve been offering suggestions for all the parents we work with. Suggestions that offer encouragement, self-care, and reassurance that we will help you get through this the best we can. We are not able to reach all of our parents at this time, so we’ve created a list that everyone can access. These are gentle reminders of how to engage in self-care while parenting in isolation. These are tips to help you stay sane. Honestly, these are things we should all be doing to be the best we can be each day, no matter what the circumstances may be.
Create flexible schedules: If you’re running a tight ship day in and day out, your bound to run into burn-out. Creating a loose schedule for the day with room to mix it up or push things off to the next day can go a long way. After all, if a schedule creates more stress, it defeats its purpose.
Take notice when you are feeling rigid. Take a step back, pause, and try to be a little more flexible each day.
Work on increasing positive interactions throughout the day. Start small. Give each person in your household a compliment of some type each day and go from there. After all, positivity is contagious!
Find 10-15 minutes each day to spend 1:1 with your child. Let them lead the way. No demands. Just 100% undivided attention with what they want to do or show you.
Lower Academic Expectations
Remind yourself that you are not a teacher and that’s ok! We are simply learning at home during a Pandemic. You are not expected to meet your child’s teacher’s job requirements.
If school work is making you and your children cry, that is not learning. Take a step back and loosely schedule in school work throughout the day with plenty of breaks.
Find natural learning opportunities throughout the day to increase learning in a fun way. Life skills counts as learning, too!
Prioritize your family’s mental health over academics. Don’t forget to encourage coping skills and mindfulness. These are life-long skills that your child will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Stick to Behavioral Science
If you’ve had parent training in the past, review what you’ve learned and implement it. If you have not had parent training, ask your child’s ABA therapist for guidance.
Having your child respond to all of your demands each day should never be the goal. Instead, make it a goal to have tools you can use on the spot to gain compliance.
Provide plenty of reinforcement. Look for the good and praise it.
Learn and utilize the premack principle. This is known as Grandma’s Rule. An example is “First clean your room, then you can have a cookie”.
Implement a token economy. Have your child earn tokens throughout the day for good behaviors, completing tasks, etc. This can be as simple as earning a few coins or buttons to place in a jar.
Keep Realistic, Values-Driven Goals
Select one simple thing you can do each day that is important to you.
Consider your values-what do you wish for your life to be like? Ponder that question every time you make a goal.
Include Mindfulness and Self-Care Regularly
Mindfulness is all about coming back to the present moment. A great way to practice mindfulness is to select a simple activity you may take for granted, such as brushing your teeth and practice noticing each moment of the process.
Take notice when you get hooked. It happens to all of us. That one thought, that one reflection, that one interaction…it sticks with you and replays over and over again. Take notice of these occurrences and remind yourself that it’s nothing more than a thought or a memory. If it’s not helpful, remind yourself of this and let it go.
If worry fills your mind, make a list of the worries you have, then separate them by things you can control and things you cannot control.
Pay attention to your body. We all carry stress in different ways. Take a moment to unclench your teeth, rest your shoulders, and loosen your tongue from the roof of your mouth. Pay attention to where you hold your stress and release it.
Take a mindful walk. Go outside, walk around your neighborhood and take notice of the little things. The birds nest in that tree…the flowers blooming in that yard…the way the breeze feels as it combs your hair.
Stay connected. Call…video chat…email…post a message in a Facebook Group. Do everything you can to stay connected to the world outside of your reach.
Practice self-compassion. Reflect on an act of kindness that someone performed for you. Think about how that person was feeling in that moment. Feel the same for yourself. Present yourself with kindness.
Count your blessings. Even in tough times, there’s always something to be grateful for. Think of those things daily. Write them down. Share them with your family out loud.
Lastly, remind yourself that this time period is not normal. We are all grasping for a manual on how to do this. Unfortunately, there is no manual for “Living through a Global Pandemic”. We are creating it day by day. None of us are handling this with pure grace, but we can try our best each day. It’s ok to not love this time period. It’s ok to struggle sometimes. This isn’t about survival of the fittest, its about adapting to the most abnormal times of our lives. If you’re reading this and asking yourself how you’re going to do it… Guess what? You already are. If you or someone you know is struggling with Mental Health concerns, know that you aren't alone - support is out there. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor. crisistextline.org Ms. Michelle, RBT ABCS Senior Behavior Therapist
Parent training is such an important part of any successful treatment plan for a child on the autism spectrum. Your child might receive daily or weekly ABA therapy sessions run in 1:1 format with a trained therapy service provider and while that’s a great way to expand your child’s skills and improve behaviors, making sure the parent receives support on implementing these taught strategies outside of the therapeutic setting is the very best way to get the most out of ABA therapy services. Parent training has a wealth of benefits and can be performed in many different ways. Improve your child’s communication skills Children on the autism spectrum can have difficulty expressing themselves and often engage in problem behaviors to get their wants and needs met. Through parent training we can teach parents and caregivers how to effectively teach communication skills that replace problem behaviors at home and in the community. When parents get involved in teaching communication skills it helps children to acquire those skills at much faster rates, as they will get a lot of practice with the skills at home and in their therapy sessions.Decrease Problem Behaviors With structured parent training sessions, parents and caregivers can learn how to carry out the same evidenced-based problem behavior reduction interventions that are being delivered by your ABA team. Support is available on how to handle your child’s problem behaviors. By undergoing parent training and assisting your team in carrying out the behavior reduction interventions, the treatment of problem behaviors will be more consistent and allow for faster elimination of problem behaviors. Learn to Promote Independence Children with autism easily become dependent on help from others and sometimes they do not have the skills necessary to perform tasks independently. A major focus in ABA therapy is to promote independence. Parents and caregivers can learn how to teach children daily living and self-help skills during parent training sessions which can improve the quality of life for the entire family. Consistency is Key Consistency is the key to having a successful treatment program. It is vital that parents, caregivers, teachers, therapists, and every person involved in a child’s ABA programming are consistent in the way that skills and replacement behaviors are taught. Collaborations can be accomplished through parent training. Everyone can learn and collaborate on ways to best teach children on the spectrum innovative skills they need to learn and grow. How can you become involved in parent training? Joining your child’s therapy sessions is the number one way to receive hands on training. Observe and participate! This is always encouraged. Doing so can allows for direct observation of skills being taught within therapy sessions and allows parents and caregivers the frequent opportunity to receive coaching and feedback from an Analyst. Schedule meetings with your child’s therapy team! Schedule to meet with your ABA therapy team frequently to discuss any concerns or newly arising events so that everyone is always up to date. Take notes. Learn. Grow. Your ABA team is here to help you and your child succeed and always enjoys collaborations. Don’t forget to work on skills at home! Working on skills at home can contribute to your child’s success by allowing more practice in the natural environment in which they are expected to perform these skills. The more practice, the more successful your child will be at developing and using those skills in the future. Staying involved pays off! If you have questions on parent training, please reach out to your child’s ABA therapist for more information. Guide by Ms.Michelle , RBT ABCS Senior Behavior Therapist