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Not What I Expected: A Guide for Parents of Exceptional Children

Highlights from Expert Series

The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.

The entire population of people who are parents, and even more so, parents of exceptional children is a historically neglected area of the study of human development. Recent research has revealed that parents do indeed go through brain, mind, body and emotional changes that have not been studied previously. The need to recognize and support parents as critical shapers of their child’s development is vital.

The very architecture of parents’ brains evolve differently as a result of expecting and raising children. When children are exceptional, including gifted children, twice exceptional and thrice exceptional children, the parental responses flow through a series of different stages of emotions that need to be understood in order to help parents navigate their parenting experience. While research has found that children’s experience of well being are formed through co-regulation with their parents, parents can also be guided through how to modulate, integrate their emotional phases towards an integrated, well balanced emotional state.

Tips for an Integrated, Well Balanced Emotional State

Here is a seven step plan for building parent resilience and the important of co-regulation, the power of presence, internal self regulation and acceptance.

  1. Deep breathing – disrupts and calms the alarm/ anxiety/ anger system
  2. S.T.O.P. method (see below) of achieving internal homeostasis and more mindful behaviors
  3. Creating a self care menu to be ready to pluck one self care practice based on time and availability
  4. Creating a 911 list of people to call for help or just to talk
  5. Building your “army” of helpers is an essential part of raising exceptional children
  6. Avoid burnout! Symptoms include isolation, daydreams of running away, thinking about self harm or harming one’s child, foggy thinking, depression / parents need to create respite times for themselves
  7. Making positive memories: the stories we tell and the stories that children take into the future build powerful future resilience models.

Additional Resources

  1. Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children by Rita Eichenstein

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KWG5TMG/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

  1. Father’s brain is sensitive to childcare experiences

https://www.pnas.org/content/111/27/9792

  1. The Plasticity of Human Maternal Brain: Longitudinal Changes in Brain Anatomy During the Early Postpartum Period

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318549/

  1. Seven New Things We’ve Learned About the Brain

https://bigthink.com/neuropsych/brain/#rebelltitem2

  1. Dad bod & dad brain: How a man’s brain changes when he becomes a father

https://bigthink.com/neuropsych/neuroscience-of-fatherhood/#rebelltitem1

  1. reframing mommy brain

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/11/well/family/reframing-mommy-brain.html

  1. What happens to a woman’s brain when she becomes a mother

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/what-happens-to-a-womans-brain-when-she-becomes-a-mother/384179/

  1. The STOP method for regulation of stress

https://www.mindful.org/stressing-out-stop/

  1. The top benefits of breathing

https://www.blallab.com/blog/12-amazing-health-benefits-of-breathing-exercises/#:~:text=Breathing%20exercises%20will%20help%20strengthen,’fight%20or%20flight’%20response.&text=Regular%20breathing%20exercises%20can%20improve%20focus%20and%20concentration

 

Authored by: Dr. Rita Eichenstein
Bio: Rita Eichenstein, Ph.D., is a noted psychologist, pediatric neuropsychologist, and author, renowned in the field of child development, and author of the award-winning book: Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children – https://amzn.to/3lEkZrf. With a private practice in Los Angeles, California, she has served both atypical children of all ages, and their parents, for over 25 years. Her life’s work has been to create an assessment environment that embraces atypical children and their families to be embraced as part of the normative rainbow of human diversity. An “atypical child” – a term coined by Dr. Eichenstein – encompasses children who do not conform to the usual expectations, whether from various diagnosed conditions or quirky kids whose symptoms and behaviors and challenges defy official diagnostic categories. You can find out more at her website: www.DrRitaEichenstein.com.

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