Being a parent is overwhelming enough. Being a parent of an autistic child can feel like you’re an astronaut with no formal training. “Alright Marci, you’re going to Mars next week. Here’s 5,000 books on how we think you should do it, and here’s another 5,000 about all the things that can go wrong. Blastoff!”
We all know that this is what it can feel like. There are so many opinions out there about what you should and shouldn’t be doing as a parent of a child with autism. The stress of even having to make parenting decisions can be almost paralyzing. This post is about how to step out of this anxiety and confidently make parenting decisions for your child with no fear and no regret.
You have the ability to effortlessly determine what’s best for your child. Nature has been honing and crafting your parenting skills since the beginning of life on earth. Literally, within your DNA exists the instinctual knowledge of all the parenting experiences that have come before you. Within you is the latest and greatest parenting software!
So, why then is it so hard to know what’s right for our children?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s because we’ve forgotten how to trust our instinct, gut or what is commonly referred to as our intuition. Intuition is all the rage in business schools where executives are learning to harness it for the sake of profit. In Science Daily’s recent article, Go with Your Gut — Intuition is More than Just a Hunch, Says New Research, Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of Leeds University Business School states that, “Executives and managers often use intuition over deliberate analysis” when making key decisions. They’re using it like an internal compass for decision making.
Rarely do we hear about intuition’s importance in making parenting decisions though. This is where it really counts. Your intuition can be used to make every parenting decision better, from the big ones, like what in-home therapies to do or how to stop a meltdown, to small ones, like what to pack for lunch. So how do we tap back into our intuition and make better, faster, and calmer parenting decisions for our children?
Here are three simple steps that will help you trust your intuition.
1. Practice calming techniques because a calm mind is more intuitive.
Low level fear and anxiety can freeze our intuition. Under a brain scan these emotions inhibit some of our right brain processes where intuition resides. When we are calmer and more relaxed our brains become more coherent, and our intuition is free to give us feedback. Here are some calming techniques that reduce anxiety and strengthen intuition.
- Deep, slow breathing
- Yoga & meditation
- Taking a walk and being in nature
- Getting time to yourself to take a bath or do whatever you thoroughly enjoy
- Doing something creative that engages the right hemisphere of your brain
2. Deliberately ask your intuition the right questions.
As you start to directly engage your intuition it’s important to acknowledge it and ask it the right questions. When you’re trying to make a decision, ask it a very direct question and see what feedback it gives you. Try and keep the questions positive so that you don’t activate fears which can impede your intuition. For example, instead of asking, “Will this decision cause a meltdown?,” ask, “Will this decision help calm my child?” Here are some good questions to ask your intuition when making a parenting decision.
- Is this going to calm my child?
- Will this help me relax and feel better?
- Is this going to make my life and theirs easier?
- Is this going to help my child develop?
- Will my child respond well to this?
- Will this improve our lives?
- Will this bring my child joy and happiness?
3. Learn to go with what feels right.
There’s a reason why we call intuition a gut “feeling.” Your intuition speaks to you through how your body feels. For example, if you ask yourself if a decision will help calm your child and you tense up and your hands start sweating, that may not be the right decision. If a decision is right for you and your child, you will feel your body relax and feel good. Your intuition is giving you the green light to go for it! The positive or negative feedback from your intuition can come in a variety of ways, so when you speak to it, slow down, be present and pay close attention to what your body is telling you. Soon you will be able to read your intuition like a compass, because that’s what it is.
What happens if your intuition isn’t giving you any clear feedback? In this case, you may be in a state of anxiety or your intuition is telling you to wait and not make the decision yet. The best thing to do when this happens is to give yourself some time and space from the decision. Let your subconscious processing takeover and kick it around for a while and then come back to the decision later when you’re in a calmer state.
Sometimes on big decisions where you’re not feeling totally clear on what to do, a good rule of thumb is to watch for three indications that affirm a given course of action. For example, your intuition may be telling you that organic food will help your child feel better, but you’re just not sure if you wanna make this expensive switch. For the next week or so, see if three situations naturally arise that support the switch. Maybe your friend tells you organic worked for her child, you see a good article about it, and you bite into an apple that tastes like nasty pesticides.
Please be patient with yourself as you are developing your intuition. It is a process that occurs over time. If you are not used to using your intuition, it takes time for it to turn on, for you to understand how to use it and to trust yourself. If you keep following it, you may find that it makes your life and your child’s a whole lot easier.
Eventually, using your intuition to make better decisions will become, well, intuitive. You’ve probably heard people say plenty of times that their gut is never wrong. Science is now backing this up, and let that knowledge bring some peace to your life.
Ultimately, you will know what is best for your child when you can take time to learn to listen to yourself.
Let your intuition be your guide.
I expand more on the topic of intuitive parenting in my New York Times best selling (just kidding!!) free eBook, Autism Simplified for Parents. It’s a quick and easy read with tons of useful, actionable information that will make your parenting life easier.