Five Tips for Your High Needs Child

I remember writing on my personal blog a long time ago about my high needs toddler. This was a little girl who had grown from being a high needs baby – one that requires constant holding and comfort (and will scream bloody murder the entire time).


Well here we are two years later, and I can say that the “high needs” part of my child is the gift that keeps on giving ;)

My daughter is extremely smart, engaging and often hilarious. But with her intensity comes extra challenges:

  • Clothing is still her enemy. She has a handful of things she will wear over and over. Anything that is restrictive is out of the question – no arm cuffs, no jeans or pants with buttons, and only specific socks will do.
  • Obsessive compulsive – she likes to repeat certain activities or patterns. For example, bedtime must consist of the exact same routines and words repeated, or she tends to lose it.
  • Picky eating – food cannot touch each other on the plate, and she freaks out over various ingredients. She doesn’t like “black specs” in her dinner (i.e. spices), “chewy meat” or meat with fat, and certain textures are tough for her to swallow.
  • Drama queen – any tiny cut or scrape is blown out of proportion. If it’s actually a serious injury (like the time she fell off her bed onto her front teeth), you can expect hysterics to the point of passing out.

Although all of this sounds like we should be bringing her to the doctor for an assessment, I can say with certainty that we aren’t dealing with any developmental disorder. She has done very well in all-day Kindergarten, and tends to save her emotional releases for home :) She is learning to write and read, and has no trouble socializing with other kids.

What it does mean is that we’ve had to become creative in finding ways to manage our daughter’s emotions. My level of patience has gone up tremendously in the past few years, and I don’t lose my temper nearly as often as I used to. It helps that my husband is very creative, and often comes up with great solutions!

1) Make things into a game. She won’t go pee? Ask her if you can “pump” her arm to see whether pee will come out. Won’t get dressed? Pretend her pants go on her arms and get her giggling.

2) Routine, routine, routine. I’ve mentioned my daughter is slightly OCD. Although she does well when we go on vacation or go out to special events, most days she thrives on a very strict schedule. School is actually a great place for her, because she knows what to expect. We find it more challenging when she is at home with nothing to do!

3) Wear them out. Staying at home and just “hanging out” does not go over well with our daughter (actually, it might be the parents who suffer the most!) We always go out and do something, even in a snowstorm! She also enjoys swimming, museums, gymnastics and soccer.

4) Don’t sweat the small stuff. Really, is it a big deal if she decides to wear the same outfit three days in a row? We’ve learned to put our foot down over anything that could be dangerous, but have tried to relinquish power for many other things. That’s not to say we don’t have rules, but within those rules is a lot of flexibility (e.g. she won’t wear her coat because “it feels funny.” Our rule is that she has to carry whatever she chooses not to wear. Usually within seconds she’s decided it’s too cold outside not to wear her jacket!)

5) Be empathetic, but don’t cater. We respect that our daughter has a lot of big feelings – often giving her a huge hug will help her to calm down a bit. But that doesn’t mean that we cater to her every need. She eats the same dinner as the rest of us, despite protests over various foods (we always make sure there’s one thing on the plate that she likes). And we DO find our patience runs thin when she’s  disturbing the rest of the family with hysterics. There have been times we’ve chosen to keep her home from outings when she won’t cooperate, and she realizes that the consequences are that she misses out on a lot of fun!

Do you have a high needs child? What are some of your tips/tricks for parenting them?


Making Time

The other day I wrote about making evenings work for myself and my husband. This got me brainstorming about ways to also make time for myself.

Pregnant with my first child, I never fully appreciated the total lack of time I would have to give to myself as a parent. Both of our children haven’t been great sleepers, so we’ve spent the past 5 years doing both daytime parenting and exhaustive nighttime parenting. So the snippets of time I’ve managed to find for myself have been spent trying to eat something (mostly chocolate), or collapsing on the couch.

Lately, though, the intensity of parenting during the early years has slowed down (just a bit!). My oldest daughter is becoming more independent, and we’ve been working hard with my youngest to get more sleep.

Of course, it’s easy for this extra time to be frittered away by scrolling through my Facebook timeline or watching television. And hey, I love me some TV and Facebook, but I’m also hoping to focus on my own personal wellness – something that a screen doesn’t usually help with.

Here are some ways I’ve been making time for me:

  • I joined the gym! There is a gym at my work, and although it’s certainly not pretty or modern, it does the trick. I do a quick 45 minute workout at lunch.
  • I take meandering walks. We back onto a ravine, and on my days working from home, I’ll take the dog out into the ravine and make my way slowly through the bush. This quiet time to myself has allowed me to do a lot of thinking!
  • Instead of pouring myself a big glass of wine when I get home from work, I’ve been trying to take time to brew a nice cup of herbal tea. I sip on this while getting dinner prepped or doing the dishes.
  • I joined a yoga class. Although it’s only once per week, I’m LOVING the time I have to stretch and move mindfully

All of these things are so simple, and don’t seem like much. But they’ve made a world of difference. I feel happier, and more grounded. Of course I have goals for finding even more time for myself too :) At some point I’m hoping I’ll feel rested enough to get up early in the morning and practice meditation or yoga. I have a ways to go yet, but I think progress has been made.

How do you make time for yourself as a parent?


For Next Winter

Alright Old Man Winter, we are done and done. I’ve been patient. I was patient all through January, when post-Christmas blahs were at their worst. I was patient in February, apparently the most depressing month of the year. And I was patient at the beginning of March, as I eagerly anticipated warmer temperatures.

But now? My patience has been swept away by the icy winds and blowing snow. My kids no longer fight their snowsuits – they just play dead when it’s time to get dressed. It’s like they’ve lost the will to live.

But alas, I know you can not haunt us forever, and slowly but surely, the sun is gaining strength. Yesterday I was actually sweating on my walk to work!

So this is the time of year that I begin assessing how to make winter better for the whole family. We’re finally past the newborn stage, and both my kids will be ready for fun activities next year. And what’s more fun than skiing? So I put the word out to some friends, asking for advice on the best age to begin skiing.

Apparently there IS no best age! My friends reported cross-country skiing with their 18-month olds (they must be athletically endowed – our family does not carry those genes). As for downhill, it seems that 3-5 years old is the best time to begin lessons. Parents suggest trying one lesson first before signing up for a package – let your kids decide whether they want to continue!

This gives me hope for next winter – that my family may embrace the snow pants and get out on our skis. I just hope my kids are slightly more athletic than I am, as pictured here several winters ago ;)

Me skiing

Me crashed

Do you ski with your children?

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