In our parent support groups and Community Connections conversations, AANE staff members are hearing a lot about families’ experiences during this COVID-19 stay-at-home period. As most parents are spending a lot more time than usual with their children, many are also getting to observe directly how their children are handling their school work, and interacting with their teachers and classmates over videoconference. Some children have adapted well to the forms of online and independent learning offered by their schools, but others are struggling or shutting down.
Parents may be getting useful information, and possibly new opportunities to teach skills and values or discuss important issues with their children. However, taking on this additional role as teacher and seeing their children’s struggles up close and in detail can also increase parents’ frustrations and worries. Anxious parents may try to change children’s behavior by, for example, nagging them to complete school work or trying to influence how they talk to others. These attempts may backfire and contribute to a more strained parent/child relationship. One reason is that children with Asperger/autism profiles are very sensitive to negative feedback, as AANE Executive Director Dania Jekel explained in this video.
As parents, how can we calm our own anxiety, so that we can communicate with our children in more patient, thoughtful, and effective ways? One parent shared a simple technique suggested by her therapist:
I started this project after participating in an AANE webinar with a transition specialist from NESCA. Hearing during the webinar that kids on IEPs who don’t have paid jobs during high school are less likely to achieve employment success and establish independent lives in adulthood increased my worry about my son’s future.
I shared my worries and sadness with my therapist. She suggested that every day I try writing down in my calendar one good thing my son does that day.
To my surprise, in a very short time this simple exercise really had a positive impact. I was able to notice something good to record almost every day. When I looked back over how many good things my son had accomplished during the week, I felt more hopeful. As I started to feel less worried about my son, I became much less critical of him. I stopped nagging him, and began to express my appreciation of his efforts and achievements–a change that makes him feel great too.
We have started to get along much better. We have become more able to resolve problems, get things done, and enjoy some activities together.
We thought this was a great idea! It not only helps parents lessen their own anxiety, but helps kids feel better about themselves as well. It’s a wonderful step to help parents shift from criticism and correction to positivity and praise.
(We even made a graphic to help spread the idea!)