I know what it feels like to experience daily battles with your child.
Unwanted behaviors, meltdowns, aggressive behavior, feeling like you’re walking on eggshells…
All of it!
You feel like you’ve hit rock bottom or feeling desperate for someone outside of you and/or partner to help.
I know what it feels like to be desperate for more information, for more help and support and to be scouring the internet and local groups to find a professional to work with your child.
Maybe you go on Instagram or Facebook or TikTok looking for parenting experts who have the information you’re looking for to help solve this constant battle in your house.
I get it, I’ve been there.
As a parent who’s been on the hunt for support and as the parent coach who parents come to for support, there’s one really important thing you need to consider before making that appointment.
This happened to me a couple years ago.
Living in quarantine at the height of a pandemic.
My husband and I were already both tapped out in terms of our abilities to remain regulated and sane.
We were in a 2 week stretch of daily meltdowns.
It felt nearly impossible to go 2-3 hours without someone yelling or crying.
I felt like it was beyond my capacity to support our daughter, clinically and personally.
Unfortunately, I was unable to take her into a clinic, but I had a long list of colleagues and professionals who I trusted and paid for consultations.
I talked to child anxiety experts, behavior based parent coaches, other Occupational Therapists, and I got a ton of great suggestions.
I got step by step support plans, scripts to try, and really doable suggestions to try to help make our days go by a little smoother.
I also got amazing insights to consider about her behavior that were from a 3rd party (a little less colored by my emotions as her own parent).
I got lots of different perspectives that were very valuable, understanding and knowing.
Considering all these extremely valuable insights…
Can you guess how much of it I actually put to use?
None of it.
Well… not right away at least.
I remember sitting there after the 3rd professional I consulted with, I turned off the Zoom and looked at my notebook of scribbled notes.
Rather than feeling empowered to start and hopeful… I actually felt more overwhelmed.
It was no fault of the experts I had consulted.
They had done their jobs well.
They did not bombard me with jargon or things I didn’t understand.
“It was me. Hi, I’m the problem, it’s me!”
I felt like… great I have all the answers right here, but the answers themselves don’t fix the problem.
Having the information isn’t enough.
I had to actually do something with that information and those plans.
I had to actually understand those quirks about my child and the insights I was given.
I had to process the information and rethink my thought process and the way I parent my child.
This meant restructuring our schedules and doing all the things that were suggested to me.
I just didn’t have the mental capacity to do that at that time.
I know there are parents out there who are in this same exact boat.
The boat where you want help, but you also don’t feel like you can handle anymore information or plans or interventions to be in charge of.
I get it.
This is something I always stress to parents when I start working with them in my 1:1 coaching sessions.
Sometimes I can tell right away where in the journey the parents are at, and I tailor my coaching sessions accordingly so I don’t overwhelm them.
Sometimes parents will come to me for something that they want.
They want help with the things that make the day to day life inconvenience.
As the parent coach, as the expert, they’re consulting a Occupational Therapist.
As the parent who goes through this myself, I sometimes have to give them what they need before what they want.
A lot of the time what they need is compassion.
Many parents need a reality check to the things that they should be able to expect their kids.
Learn how to look at behavior through an OT lens and start decoding your child’s behavior into sensory and non sensory triggers, so you can start supporting them more effectively. Check out the Sensory IS Behavior mini course.
What they shouldn’t expect and re-frame certain things they thought about parenting.
This looks different for everyone.
I know I’m doing a good job when I can see through the things that parents are asking for, what they want and starting with what they need first.
Sometimes, I can’t tell and I will explicitly ask them: are you ready to do the work?
If the answer is “I’m not ready to do the work” that’s perfectly acceptable and I would actually applaud you for having that insight and awareness of your abilities (or inabilities).
This is a fair response.
It’s just important to call that out and acknowledge where you’re at.
The last thing I would want is for you to spend the money, give you the information and have you put it in a notebook to collect dust on a shelf.
When I work with parents who are in this phase of feeling desperate for help yet unable to put things into action.
I first acknowledge that and remind them it’s okay.
I say OK, knowing that let’s just first focus on understanding your child’s behaviors and start there.
I will allow you to vent to me all the behaviors you are seeing.
You will not feel alone in this.
You are allowed to feel this way.
I will agree with you on how much it sucks.
I will educate you and give you insight on the brain and how it develops.
This session is very valuable.
Having someone outside of your family explain some of the behaviors that your child is having from an understanding and respectful approach can work wonders!
This is where I start in knowing your family and your journey to this point.
No specific work on their part, but really spend time decoding their child’s behaviors and talk about it from a neurological, brain wiring perspective with insights into childhood development.
At the very least, this information and insight can give you the few extra ounces of compassion you need to make it through the next meltdown.
If you’re feeling drained, overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out and desperate for solutions or things to change at home because of your neurodivergent child’s challenges but you feel like you can’t actually have the energy to follow through with a plan or take in anymore information… the best place for you to start is by seeking mental health support for yourself.
We hear it SO much for our generation that it feels like overkill, but seriously…
Put your oxygen mask on first.
You will not be able to provide any sort of effective support for your child if you’re constantly running on low.
As a parent who experiences burn out, I can tell you that “self care” weekend or girls night out is not enough.
If you are feeling exhausted, burnout, drained, or negative feelings not only to parenting, there is nothing wrong with you!
You are worthy of seeking mental health support!
There is less of a stigma in 2022, there is less of a stigma towards mental health.
I think parents, especially parents of neurodivergent kids, your first thought when seeking help is to seek a therapist for our child.
Singing you child up for an intervention isn’t just about making sure the bill is covered.
You have to drive them there.
There will be constant difficult meetings and discussions with the therapist.
Then there will be homework.
You will need to put in the work to see the progress.
If you aren’t ready for it, it is OK to admit that you aren’t.
It is okay to take time with your own mental health struggle.
I am giving you permission to seek the professional for yourself first before you seek help for your child.
Reminder: Before you seek help for you child, make sure you are ready for it! Seek help when you can handle it and you can put in the work.
You are worthy of seeing help from a mental health professional!
It will help your child as well, indirectly.
Loving this cathartic episode? Listen to episode 16 – Motherhood: Unscripted
I felt like, okay, cool. I literally have all of the answers right here in front of me in this book that I took notes on. I have this one-on-one contact that I can just text for support and ask, and I still felt overwhelmed and I still felt like just having those answers didn’t fix the problem. And that was was true because just having that information didn’t do anything. I had to actually do something with that information and those plans.
Welcome to the Sensory Wise Solutions podcast for parents where parents can get real actionable strategies to support kids with sensory processing disorder. I’m Laura, OT and Mom to Liliana, a sensory sensitive kid who inherited my anxiety and my love for all things Disney. Consider me your new OT mom, bestie. I know my stuff, but I also know what it’s really like in the trenches of parenting a child with sensory processing disorder.
Okay, mom, enough about me. Let’s start the podcast.
Hello. Hello everyone. I am back today with an episode that’s going to be pretty short, but something that you might need to hear at this very moment, especially if you are new to the divergent journey and you are about to embark on the up and down rollercoaster of trying to find professional support for your child. So maybe you’re a parent who has been noticing behaviors for the past few months, maybe years even, and an incident happened or something happened at school, or something big happened that triggered your need to be like, okay, no, seriously, we need to work on this, or We need help now because this behavior, this challenge is very impactful and it’s usually never the first thing that happens that triggers you to be like, okay, I need to call someone tomorrow. It’s usually a repetition or a cycle or something that happens over and over for you to realize.
It’s not a phase for you to realize that this is something beyond your control as a parent and for it to get to a point where it feels like it’s really impactful of your daily life and your child’s daily life. So this episode is for you, for those parents who are considering seeking support, whether it’s from a diagnosis, maybe you’re looking to get a diagnosis, or if you’re looking for a parent coach or if you’re looking to work with an OT or a speech therapist or a behavior therapist there’s one important step that you need to make sure that you’ve done or have gotten to before you make that call. And I’m going to get to that in a second. But I just wanted to start off by empathizing with you that I have been here and I skipped this first step. So I’m essentially teaching you through my mistakes so I know what it feels like to be in that space, to be experiencing daily strong battles with your child, whatever that looks like, unwanted behaviors, meltdowns, you’re walking on eggshells, they’re like aggressive, whatever their behavior is, but it’s daily or to a point where you are just noticing it too much.
I know what it feels like. Then to also hit what feels like rock bottom or just feeling desperate for someone outside of you and your partner. If you have a partner, just someone else to come into your home or to meet your child somewhere and can you please do something with this? You can’t see me, but I’m doing circles with my hands. Someone please fix this. Fix what’s going on? I know what that feels like. Even as someone who talks about being neurodiverse affirming and all of that things. Our kids are lovely and we love them. There’s nothing wrong with them. All of that goes without being said. But there’s still some moments where we’re like, I can’t do this. Something needs to change. My kid needs help. I need help helping my kid. And you get to that point of, I need to call someone, right?
I have been there. I’ve been there multiple times in parenthood. And so then you start scouring the internet, typing into Google, finding local groups, finding professionals to work with your child and checking with your insurance and all of the things you do, the red tape to basically set up and to get to consult or work with a professional to help your child. Maybe you even go on Instagram or TikTok or Facebook or whatever it is, and you’re searching for parenting experts who maybe can give you the information you’re looking for now to help solve this constant battle in your house. I’ve been there as a parent myself to a neurodivergent child who’s been on the hunt for support. And on the other side of it, as someone who has been the parent coach who parents come to for support, this is the one important thing that you need to do to consider before making that first appointment, that first consult call, that first contact. To seek professional support for your child, you need to be in a space where you feel like you can, I’m pointing here, I’m pointing very aggressively where you can actually process the information that’s going to be given to you and to be able to follow through and do the work with the intervention, the homework or the support plan or anything like that.
So this is what happened to me a couple years ago. We were in a rough patch, one of many, right? We go through ups and downs. We all have rough patches. We were in a rough, rough patch. We were in a two to three week stretch of daily meltdowns in the height of the pandemic, like the original quarantine period where there was already so much mental burnout just living through the quarantine and the pandemic. So my husband and I were already both tapped in terms of just our ability to remain regulated and honestly sane throughout the days. Every minute stretched so far, it felt impossible to go two to three hours without someone yelling or crying. It was miserable. I quickly reached a point where I felt like it was beyond my clinical and personal capacity to support her, and also in the height of the pandemic.
I wasn’t taking her to clinics or anything like that, but I had a long list of colleagues that I had met on Instagram. Cause at this point, I had already been pretty active on Instagram and meeting other professionals who I collaborated with. So I had a lot of trusted colleagues virtually that I could consult with and reach out with, and I sure did that. I consulted with a few very good in their field experts of parenting who were child anxiety experts, behavior-based parent coaches, other OTs. I consulted with them and I got a lot of good insight and suggestions. I got step-by-step support plans, how to take data on certain things. I got scripts to try really, really doable suggestions to try to help make our days go a little smoother. I also got really good insights to consider from other professionals about her behavior. So they were less colored, so to speak, by my emotions and by me just thinking specifically through an OT lens. I got lots of different perspectives that were very valuable in understanding and knowing.
But guess how much of all of that I actually put to use? None of it, none of it. I remember sitting through those consultations and writing notes and being like, oh, that’s so interesting. That makes sense. This must be why she does X, Y, Z. But as soon as I turned off the camera, I was like, didn’t do anything with that. Did not do anything. Rather than leaving those calls feeling empowered and hopeful and great, this is exactly where I need to start. I actually felt more overwhelmed, and it was to no fault of those experts and the people I spoke to, they did not just bombard me with a ton of jargon and things I didn’t get. They did their job very well. It was a me problem. It was me. I felt like, okay, cool. I literally have all of the answers right here in front of me in this book that I took notes on.
I have this one-on-one contact that I can just text for support and ask, and I still felt overwhelmed, and I still felt like just having those answers didn’t fix the problem. And that was was true because just having that information didn’t do anything. I had to actually do something with that information and those plans. I had to actually understand those quirks about my daughter and the insights that they gave me and process that and see how that fits into how I think about her and how I parent her and doing all of those actual hands-on strategies and restructuring our schedules and all of those things that are suge that were suggested to me. I just didn’t have the mental capacity to do any of those things at those times. And I know there are parents out there who are in this exact boat right now, the boat where you want to help, but you also don’t feel like you can handle any more information or any plans or interventions to be in charge of.
I get that. I get it. This is something that I always spend time stressing to parents when I start working with them in my one-on-one coaching sessions. Sometimes pretty often I can tell right away where in the journey the parents are at based on how they talk to me, based on how they fill out the parent the form. And I’ve gotten pretty good at tailoring my coaching sessions accordingly, so I don’t overwhelm them and meet them exactly where they’re at there. There’s sometimes where parents will come to me for something that they want help with, which is usually the behaviors, the things making the day-to-day life inconvenient. These are the things that they want help with. But as the parent coach, as the expert, they’re consulting as the occupational therapist, as the parent who goes through this myself, I sometimes have to give them what they need before what they want, and a lot of the time what they need is compassion.
A lot of the time what they need is a reality check of things that they should be able to expect with their kids and what they shouldn’t expect and reframing certain things they thought about parenthood it. It’s different for everybody, but that’s my job, and I know I’m doing a good job when I can see through the things that parents are asking for, what they want and starting with first what they need because that’s going to better predict or ensure a successful outcome with our work together. Sometimes I can’t always tell, and I will explicitly ask them things like, okay, I hear you’re frustrated. I hear you’re having a hard time with this and that. Are you ready to do the work? And look, if the answer is, I am not ready to do the work, that’s perfectly acceptable, and I would actually applaud you for having that insight and awareness of your abilities or inabilities at this time, that’s completely fair.
And I think that’s a great thing. It’s just really important to call that out and acknowledge that and know where you’re at and let the person you’re working with know where you’re at. That way when I work with you as a parent on the other side, I know I have a lot of things I’d be willing to share with you and strategies to help, but you might not be in a place to receive it yet. And it would just be a waste of this time and your money if I gave you this information and it just sat on the shelf in your notebook, collecting dust when you really just need the peer-to-peer support that I can offer you or reframing of certain behaviors or just starting out slow.
So when I do, when it, when it becomes clear to me that the parent that I’m working with or parents that I’m working with are in this limbo phase of feeling desperate for help, yet unable to put anything into action, my first step is acknowledging that and reminding them that it’s okay. But then I say, okay, now that we know that, now that we know you’re not ready to put anything into action to do any specific homework assignments, that’s totally fine. Let’s just focus on understanding your child’s behaviors and just start there. Let’s talk about it. Vent to me all of the behaviors that you’re seeing. I will make sure that you understand and know that you’re not alone in this and that it does that. It’s okay for you to feel like this sucks. I will always give you that, and then I’ll give you more education and insight on the brain and how it develops.
And that can be a valuable session in and of itself, just having a different person outside of your family explain some of the behaviors that your child is having from a very understanding and respectful approach. And that’s how I work with parents. But it does take my awareness of knowing where that family is in their journey and in their point of where they’re willing or not willing to work on things, if that makes sense. So when I start here, there’s no specific work that the parents need to do on their part, but really just spending time listening and learning about behavior from a neurological brain wiring perspective with insights into typical childhood development. And at the very least, this information is still helpful and it’s insights that can give you a little bit more compassion to make it through the next meltdown or to try to remain calm and understanding through all of the other behaviors.
But there are also times when I will share that and also acknowledge that if the parent are feeling drained, overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, and desperate for solutions or things to change at home because of your divergence challenges, but you feel like you can’t actually have the energy to follow through with the plan or take in any more information, the best place for you to start is by seeking mental health support for yourself. We hear it so much for our generation that it feels like it’s overkill, but again, I’m going to say it, it’s cliche. Put your oxygen mask on first. You will not be able to provide any sort of effective support for your child if you are constantly running on low and burnt out and pouring from an empty cup, so to speak. And as a parent myself, who experiences burnout, I think really anybody who is parenting a young child these days, through the past years of the pandemic, the pandemic had a big toll on everybody, right?
Let’s just agree with that. And I’m still burnt out coming off of that, especially because we were one of the families who took it more seriously where we did quarantine and isolate ourselves a lot. And so we were burnt out on that. But so as a parent who experiences burn burnout from that perspective, layered with parenting a neurodivergent child, I can tell you that quote like self-care weekends or girls’ night out or a nice long bath and a facial, that’s not enough to pull you out of that. If you are really experiencing exhaustion, burnout, feeling drained, negative feelings about parenthood, there’s nothing wrong with you, but you’re still worthy of seeking mental health support to get you through that. And I cannot, I will always be a huge advocate and proponent for seeking therapy. There’s nothing wrong for doing that. I think that in 2022, we’ve come a long way in accepting mental healthcare for more people.
It’s less of a stigma, but we still have a long way to go. And I think parents, especially parents of neurodivergent kids, when you think of seeking help, your first thought is, I need to get a therapist for my child. I need a behaviorist for my child. I need an ot, a speech, all of that. And that’s your first go-to. But if you yourself are not mentally there yet to be able to deal with all of the things that come with putting your child in an intervention, it’s not just signing them up for it. It’s the insurance calls, it’s the copays, it’s driving them there, it’s talking to the therapist. It’s having meetings with the therapist to constantly talk about the things that are hard for your child. It’s the homework that you have to do at home in order to actually see progress with your child. If you can’t do that yet, then it is really more of a waste of your time to get that started if you are not ready for it all. And it’s okay to admit that, and it’s okay to take more time with that on your own. And it’s also okay to seek help from a professional yourself to help you get there.
So this is my one and final reminder to anyone out there before you seek help for your child, make sure you are ready for it and you can handle it, and you can put in the work for it. And if you’re not, take the time. And if you want help, seek support from a mental health professional, you are worth it. The time is worth it. It will still end up helping your child as well, even if it is indirectly. All right. I hope this was helpful for you. I will see you next week.
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