Are you secretly terrified of all that unstructured time with your atypical kids?
How do you want to feel this summer?
Are you looking forward to it?
Are you excited or scared by the prospect of unstructured time with your atypical kids?
Have you got calming skills to get you through it?
“Is your intention to connect or to correct? Parents who can define their intention can help meet children’s vital needs, including stability, security, safety, and guidance. What is your purpose? To correct and manage your children or to connect with and enjoy them?”
-Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson, Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids
Make joyful memories with just a little preparation.
Many parents are overwhelmed at the thought of planning activities this summer. Aside from the residue of stress from last summer, when we were literally just hoping that all our loved ones would survive, there’s the usual worry of what to do. There may also be an added (self-imposed) pressure to ensure this summer is wonderful to make up for the last year.
Do your fantasies get waylaid by the reality of parenting your atypical kids? For example, you love the beach but your kid’s sensory processing disorder makes sand practically torture?
Do you have lots of ideas, but give up when your kids shoot all of them down? Or do you force them to do activities you choose and regret it later?
Do you start off planning to work on key skills with your kids, but tend to give up under the overwhelm of it all? You end up hoping to just keep them from fighting or being on screens all the time.
Yeah, me too.
What if you had a plan that fulfilled everyone’s needs, including your own? In order to show up as your best self for your family, prioritize your own feelings and needs at least as much as everyone else’s.
Imagine a summer filled with joy and fulfillment, not just for your atypical kid but for your whole family, including YOU!
What would you name it?
Our summer of_____?
How would you feel? Would it be memorable?
Create a simple summer family mission statement. When we’re parenting atypical kids, it helps to get buy-in, have a loose plan, communicate visually, and have a toolkit of practices to help you stay calm.
It is harder to feel calm and enthusiastic when we are isolated. What if you could connect with other parents who understand?
In this article, you can expect to:
- Practice calming skills you can take with you anywhere.
- Learn a simple process to create a summer family mission statement
- Co-create realistic plans and goals as a family.
- Prioritize everyone’s feelings and needs, including your own.
Your family can do this!
If you want more guidance, and to connect with other parents, join the Survive or Thrive Summer workshop. In addition to what’s above, you will:
- Bring home tools and templates to use with your family for a more joyful, purposeful, and mindful summer!
- Troubleshoot and role-play the process, with active listening.
- Connect with a community of parents who get it.
How to Create a Summer Family Mission Statement:
Schedule a family meeting during a low-stress time when everyone is already together. Dessert? Sunday morning after pancakes? Make sure everyone knows that their input is needed. You can set a timer if they are resistant or wondering how long it will take. In that time, get down as much raw data as you can. Then, call another meeting to complete the process. This is not a one-shot deal. You can revise as much as you like, and everyone should have the power to call a family meeting to discuss the plan.
You can start with a breathing pattern to cool off and calm down together:
Ice Cream Breath
- Stick out your tongue, and curl up the sides like a U (if genetically possible).
- Breathe in through the straw created by your curled tongue (or over your extended tongue).
- Breathe out slowly through your nose.
Continue for 5 or more rounds.
Tip: Ice Cream Breath (sitali pranayam) looks funny, so it is great for breaking tension. Teach it to your kids. They can imagine sipping a milkshake through the straw they make with their tongue. Ask, “What flavor is yours?”
Ask: How do we want to feel this summer?
Write down all answers. Use as much extra paper as you need. If you have young children or non-speaking kids, ask for their input in their own way. Just the act of asking and actively listening to each family member is important to the process. They might gesture or draw. You know your kids, so help and coach them until you get the essence of what’s important to them. Be their translator.
This absolutely includes you and other adults. Everyone contributes. This is where we can all dream. Every single feeling gets written down. Do not edit.
One year, I asked this question, and my husband said “WAVES” so we made sure to feel waves that summer. You will get to know each other’s priorities.
Ask: How are we going to get there?
On another sheet, brainstorm.
Pause often to listen.
Write everything. Don’t shoot down any ideas.
Redirect back to the question. Take breaks if needed.
Do not leave yourself out, or you‘ll be unmotivated to implement the plan. In order to show up as your best self, you need to get clear on your own feelings and needs.
Group similar ideas together. Everyone circles their top priority. Find a way to make it happen. It doesn’t have to be literal. As my mom says when one of her grandkids demands something impossible to produce, “I want a house in the Bahamas.”
You can give wishes in fantasy. Get creative. If a trip overseas isn’t realistic, build an airplane and play an airplane game, then research recipes from the region… you know, all that stuff that takes more effort than Netflix. Or, find something about that region on Netflix! Make sure your ideas are age-appropriate, so no one feels condescended to. Make sure whoever’s priority it is also brainstorming solutions, not just shooting them down. Seriously, you will not regret giving wishes in fantasy.
This process can help each family member feel heard and seen. It can also help your kids understand why you want to do whatever your priority is. It helps everyone to know the “Why.” Getting to the “Why” is an essential ingredient of a respectful relationship.
“The most successful relationships with children are based on recognizing that they also have power. This does not mean that we give up our responsibility to protect and guide, but rather that we understand that they are part of the process.”
– Judith and Ike Lasater, What We Say Matters
After focusing on the top priority for each person and schedule that in, you still have a treasure box of other ideas to inspire you, and a list of target feelings to keep you motivated.
Put it on a calendar. Put it on the fridge. Review and revise all summer!
Buy-in to our summer plan increases dramatically when we create a family mission statement together. Want more support? I’ll personally walk you through it with scenarios and community HERE. What questions do you have for me about this process?
Kate Lynch (she/her): parent to an amazing atypical kid, meditation coach, inclusive yoga teacher, and author who has been teaching and cultivating community since 2002. She teaches calming tools to parents of intense kids, building resilience to anxiety breath by breath.