Special Needs Holiday Stress: 15 Tips For 2020

Special Needs Holiday Stress: 15 Tips For 2020

Special Needs Holiday Stress 

The holidays are coming!  Yay!  And that means it’s time to preemptively strike the Special Needs family holiday stress.  

After the past year, it’s about time for us to simply enjoy the holidays.  We need the joy that comes from tradition, visiting family, pumpkin pies, gift-giving, and turning our eyes back to what matters most. 

The Wonderful Can Be Stressful

However,  this season can also lead to extra stress for the exact same reasons that can make it wonderful.   

When you’re a mom raising kids with ADHD, Autism or other executive functioning issues, the holiday hustle and bustle take stress to a whole new level. 

We’re talkin special needs holiday stress.  

How Do I Stay Stress Free Through The Holidays?

You don’t. 

So while we special needs moms can’t avoid all of the holiday stressors, there are certainly ways that we can limit them. 

The holiday time is sacred for so many of us.  It’s supposed to be a time of respite and reflection.

This means that we each must set up guardrails around the holidays based on our specific family’s needs. 

Even if it disappoints Aunt Edna.  Who is this Aunt Edna that I always speak of, BTW?    

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How To Beat The Holiday Stress?  Ask A Tribe Of Special Needs Moms

And because we’re in this together, I’ve circled back to the mom experts from AHFAS private community for some help. 

Yes, Friend.  Today, we’re easing the pressure of the holidays with some stress management tips from some special needs moms.     

Why are the holidays so stressful?

So why are the holidays so stinkin stressful?  And why is it even more challenging when you’re a mom navigating a family full of ADHD brains, for example?   

Ok.  Doesn’t that last question speak for itself?  Seriously.

What Causes Stress During The Holidays?

Let’s talk about the chaos of the holidays.  For a special needs mom this means:


  • Loss of Routine,
  • Over-stimulation,
  • Big personalities who don’t know how (or care) to “read the room”,
  • Junk food,
  • Late nights,
  • Social misfires and traffic jams,
  • and on and on and on…
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Special Needs Moms Rallying Together To Beat Holiday Stress

Now we’ve stated the obvious. The holidays are coming and with them will be extra stress.  So now let’s take some proactive steps so we can savor the season.

Let’s start with Melanie, shall we?  I mean, she has a PhD in math!  And even better, she’s been a commited member of our mom tribe since the beginning.  She knows what it’s like to deal with the messy of motherhood.

Let’s see what she has to say.

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #1- KISS & Tacos?  

KISS. Keep it simple sally!

Sometimes less is more.  Talk with your spouse and together decide what is really important.

I don’t stress about making a huge meal.  We actually have tacos on Thanksgiving and love it.

I encourage (as much as I possibly can) fewer gifts. In fact we don’t give any gifts to our children because we don’t want to add more on top of what family already gives.

More gifts = more mess = more frustration!!  

-Melanie, themathprofs.com

Erika Spence, adoptive mom, agrees with Melanie’s heartbeat for simplicity.

Keep it simple. One or two gifts, not a lot of events or parties. 

In our home, the rule is one gift and simple stocking stuffers.

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #2: Do Your Own Thing Guilt-Free

I love what Erica had to say because it speaks to the freedom we all need to live in as moms.

We must prioritize our own family needs and let go of the guilt.

She told us this:

What I would say is think outside the box.  The holidays don’t have to be spent exactly like everyone else. 

We don’t all have to rearrange the house and put up trees and spend a fortune on things.  If you and your family absolutely love those things and it brings joy, do it.  Not your thing?  Then don’t!

No need to feel any kind of guilt either way.   My extended family thought I was a little nuts when I started thinking outside the box about holidays.

Our kiddos say they like it the way it is and wouldn’t go back.   Don’t be afraid to try out some new traditions that fit your family.  It could be the best thing ever.

 -Erica, Mom of two (one with dyslexia, anxiety & sensory processing issues)

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #3: Bring Your Own Food (Even If People Think You’re Weird)

I have my child on a strict no gluten, no dairy diet.  So I just bring plenty of approved treats.  I bring enough to share of course.  And I act like it’s no big thing. 

-Maggie (1 child with moderate non-verbal ASD)  Maggie’s Fresh Kitchen

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #4: Think like a Boy Scout

Be like a boy scout and be prepared! Think ahead and try to get in front of as many possible situations as you can. The more prepared you are, the more calm you are likely to remain when something inevitably goes wrong. 

-Amy, Mom of 4 (Cerebral Palsy, ADHD, Anxiety, SPD), Real Talk with Amy

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Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #5: Noise Cancelling Headphones

I learned the hard way to always ALWAYS double check the itineraries of town festivities.   As well as to always travel with noise cancelling headphones.

Apparently, Alicia learned this lesson the hard way twice.

Once was during a tree lighting ceremony in a new town we had just moved to.  The other time was when my boy was four and we took him to the beach. 

Both places, fireworks went off and we had ZERO clue it was part of the evening’s agenda. 

My oldest was a sensory avoider and a RUNNER.   We almost lost him both times as he ran into the crowd. What made it worse is that he was non-verbal!

He was only a few feet in front of us when, at the sound of fireworks, his fight-flight mode took over.  

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #6: Prepare For Fight-Or-Flight 

When we finally found him, he was banging on business doors to desperate to escape the noise.  

I held him inside my winter coat and ran as far as I could to get away.  It didn’t help the sound was bouncing off all the downtown buildings.  He and I both cried through it, but we made it.

He is 15 now and verbal.  He can handle and enjoys fireworks!  

However, we now always travel with noise cancelling headphones and double check the itinerary!  

 – Alicia, Mom of 3 boys (2 biological and 1 adopted through the foster care system);  ASD, SPD, RAD, Microcephaly, Mood Disorder, Shaken Baby Syndrome)

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #7: One Thing A Day, Predictability, & Pre-Teach

My holiday hacks is specific to my SPD kiddo.  It’s simple, but it works.

We only plan ONE THING A DAY. JUST ONE. 

However, we break our own rule on Christmas Eve but plan nothing the day before or after to cushion the overstimulation.   

My husband and I always explain the plan in advance.  We write out the overview of the week.  Then every morning we go through the schedule with our kids. 

Familiarity Breeds Calm

We pack familiar snacks. When we stay with family, we ask them to buy the same usual breakfast foods we eat at home. 

Practicing some family traditions at home is very important.   For example, we all sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve.  So we pre-teach them a few songs so they feel prepared when we are with extended family. 

 -Stacy, (mom of 3- one with SPD) The Semi-Crunchy Mama

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #8: Be Willing To Disappoint Adults

Tricia is on board with Stacy’s suggestion as well.  

We had to tell our family that we were only going to one event a day.  So that means:

  • my side on Christmas Eve.
  • his side Christmas Day
  • or vice versa.

And we only do one Thanksgiving and one Easter.   We tried for years to make everyone happy and go to 2 or 3 different events every holiday.  It was a nightmare and exhausting.   

Now, Christmas day is opening presents in our PJs, eating cinnamon rolls, and taking naps.  There are no expectations on Christmas day beyond that.

Tricia Asbra, MAT, special needs mom of 4, (one through adoption)

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Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #9: Leave Early

Know your family’s limits.  And don’t be afraid to leave early. 

Doing what’s best for your family is more important. 

The others aren’t the ones to be around dealing with the consequences, so their opinions don’t get to rule the day.

It’s hard getting made fun of or belittled by the adults in your life, but it’s still the better choice.

-Aryn The Libraryan, mom of 2, (one highly-sensitive), www.arynthelibraryan.com, Helping Bookish Christian Women one page at a time.  

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Kate agrees with Aryn.

Don’t be afraid to pick and choose what events or parties you attend.  Do what feels right for how you want to celebrate the holiday. 

And do what makes you most at peace with yourself and your family. 

Kate, Mom on one boy, 10 years old, adhd, highly sensitive & extremely smart

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How Do Special Needs Moms Avoid The Holiday Stress?

According to Kara, Hide.

She says she’s kidding, but she may be on to something. 

Here’s what this mom has to say about keeping the holiday stress to a minimum.

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #10 : Build In Margin & Self-Regulation Strategies

We try to keep our routine as much as possible.  After we have an eventful day we build in down time.   I know my kids completely fall apart the day after a “big day”. 

We also make sure to walk through social skills and expectations ahead of time.  Not too far in advance.    

Discussing appropriate behavior and good choices to self manage is very important. For example,

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed you can…”,

Many adoptive families will understand Kara’s next comment.  She continues,

“And reminding them that there will be enough food, and more food later, to stave off panic.  It doesn’t always work, but we try.”

Sensory Regulation Tools In Their Toolbelt

One thing that Kara eluded to in her stress-free holiday tip, was the importance of equipping our kids with appropriate self-regulation tools.

In our home, this is a BIG one.  Instead of telling our kids what not to do, we best support them when we equip them.  One of the many sensory friendly self-regulation tools that we use in our home is our indoor trampoline.

These last tips are mine, Friend.

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #11: Trampoline

No joke.  This trampoline has been a God-send for my 12 year old daughter.  She is both a vestibular and proprioceptive seeker, and uses the trampoline daily to help with self-regulation.

We bought this after moving into a neighborhood that didn’t allow outdoor trampolines.  Whah, whah… party-poopers.

In the end though, this was an awesome purchase.   I highly recommend the investment if you have a child who has an affinity for jumping, crashing, deep pressure, etc.

For more information about self-regulation, sensory strategies, and more, sign up for the Barely Surviving to Outright Thriving course.

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Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #12: Shared Activities For Family

Every year I make sure to fill the table time with activities to engage the whole family.   I print out holiday printables like crazy.

  • Thanksgiving Word Searches,
  • Thankful-For Activities,
  • Christmas Make-a-Words,
  • And a variety of other activities

The main point is to engage the family in shared activities. And holiday printables are an easy way to bring family together.  We team up in pairs.  Grandparents, aunts, siblings, kids and friends.

This also helps conversation flow for our kids who struggle socially with conversation skills.. 

Follow me on Pinterest where I’ve pinned a ton of family holiday fun printables.  

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #13: Invest In You 

I don’t know where you are in this season with your child.  You may be where I was a few years ago.

I was stressed, confused, and isolated navigating my son’s uncontrollable behaviors.  Everything I knew to do as a good Christian mom failed.  Nothing that worked with my older children worked with my son.  I felt like a failure and spent way too many holidays broken and miserable.

By God’s mercy, my family is in a radically different place.  We are thriving. Not perfect, but thriving.

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Barely Surviving To Outright Thriving

Here’s the thing.   I’ve learned more about God’s design of the brain (neuroscience) than I ever did in graduate school.  And, wow!  The Gospel so clearly demonstrates the importance of parenting our uniquely-wired kids differently.

That’s why I’ve spent more than a year creating a parenting course for moms who know there must be a better way. 

Barely Surviving to Outright Thriving is everything I wished I knew then.  My heart is to equip you to equip your child to thrive as exactly the person God intentionally created them to be.

Maybe this is the time to invest in you so that you can move the needle forward for your child.  Check it out today and find freedom and joy in your family again.

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Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #14: We Can Only Do Our Best

Whether your child struggles with sensory issues, anxiety, or simply needs the predictability of routine to self-regulate well, we can only do our best.  Don’t be afraid to say no to holiday commitments ever.  Make sure to give your family plenty of wiggle room as you schedule the months to come.

Always prioritize the best interest of your specific family and don’t worry about what anyone thinks.  Love YOUR family well in freedom.

RELATED POST: Growth Mindset For Moms Changes Everything

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #15: Trust God’s Decision

God chose YOU to parent your child on purpose.   He’s your audience of One.  Trust in His decision to choose you to parent your children.  Praying for you to be flooded with His peace and joy in even the chaos, Friend.

-Lindsay, (mom of three, 2 biological & 1 through adoption: ADHD, ASD, Anxiety & FASD), Founder, A Heart For All Students

What about you?  Do you have any hacks that may be useful to another momma?   Comment below.

Recommended Reading For Moms Raising Kids With ADHD, SPD, ASD (or No Acronym At All)

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader: Essential Tips

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader: Essential Tips

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader?

Moms often search the Internet wondering, “How do you help a struggling reader?”

Whether you’re a homeschool mom or not, we’re all aware of the importance of reading. 

Understandably, many moms worry when their children are resistant to books and reading.   Often these kids are diagnosed with learning difference such as ADHD or dyslexia.  Regardless of whether or not your child has a specific diagnosis, we can all agree on one thing.

When kids struggle with reading, they need help.  Period.

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Characteristics of Struggling Readers

When a mom expresses concern about her child’s reading, I typically ask specific questions to tease out root issues.

  • How old is your child?
  • Can your child rhyme?
  • Is your struggling reader able to hear sounds in isolation and then encode them into a word?
  • Does your child have the ability to decode (sound out) words?
  • Can your child understand what he has read (reading comprehension)?

Again, it’s important to understand that reading is not simply sounding out words written on a page.  Reading is a process that includes multiple component skills that ultimately work together to produce a truly literate reader.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheets

Struggling Readers Need More Than Decoding

Here’s an unfortunate reality.  Often when children are able to “read” aloud, we think that reading has occured.  However, that is not necessarily the case.

The ability to “decode” is simply one step in the reading journey.   And each reading skill builds upon the other.

The components of reading include:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Decoding
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension

Understanding the basic elements of reading will help moms best equip struggling readers.

Let’s take a look at reading piece by piece and see how it equips you to see your child’s reading journey differently.

Logic of English Tree

Phonemic Awareness- Foundational Reading Skill

One of the first reading skills is called phonemic awareness.

Words are all made up of units of sound called PHONEMES.  When a child starts to recognize that all spoken words are composed of individual units of sound, he is developing the skill of Phonemic Awareness.

Let’s use an example.  A child hears a word such as BUG.  We want him to identify the three sounds that make up this word.

  • Buh (we don’t want to emphasize that -uh sound.  I’ve included it to emphasize the “sound”),
  • short U, and
  • hard G
  • “BUG”

When a child can hear sounds in isolation, we know he is developing the skill of phonemic awareness.  This skill alone is not universal and often needs to be explicitly taught.  

Teaching Your Child How to Rhyme

Assessing Phonemic Awareness Skills: Try This

Phonemic awareness is a foundational reading skill that comes BEFORE we attempt formal reading instruction.  If your child is struggling to “read,” it is critical that you assess his or her ability to audibly “hear” sounds.

Put down the reading curriculum, and let’s figure out what’s going on.  Start with rhyming and word manipulation actvities.

1.    Assess phonemic awareness in your child by saying aloud component sounds of simple CVC words. 



       Is your child able to make sense of the word(s)?

2.   Can your child rhyme?

Cat, bat, sat, rat

Star, far, bar, car

Struggling Readers & The Ability To Rhyme

Again, many parents and educators mistakenly believe that children automatically develop the ability to rhyme. When your kid resists reading, don’t assume anything.

If your child can’t rhyme or hear sounds in isolation, this is an indication that there is a gap in phonemic awareness.  This skill must be developed in order for a child to read well and with understanding.


NEVER skip foundational reading skills in fear of your child being behind.  It’s not worth it.  Ever.

Struggling Readers Often Need Speech & Language Support

If your child struggles to “hear” isolated sounds and isn’t “getting it” with practice, it’s time to get an eval by a PRIVATE SLP.  An SLP refers to a Speech and Language Pathologist.

Here’s the caveat.  You want a PRIVATE SLP evaluation (outside the public school system).

I say this because sadly, many SLPs within the public school system are handcuffed to limited government guidelines.  What they diagnose, the school system has to pay for.  Get it?

(This is not a criticism of the amazing SLPs in the school system.  They are simply limited by constraints of government and red-tape.)

Auditory Processing Disorder

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader?  Understand Phonics

A child sees the letter sequence D-O- G and then produces the sounds “D”- “short O”- “hard G.”  This skill is referred to as DECODING and the process of decoding is involved in PHONICS.

Once he pieces together the sounds in his mind, he says the word DOG.   This is referred to as ENCODING. 

When seeking help for your struggling reader, it is important to assess your student’s phonics skills.

Letters, Letter Combos & Associated Sounds

Children who struggle with reading often need extra support with basic spelling or phonics rules.  For example, in the English language, the letter A is represented by four possible sounds:

  • the short a sound as in CAT,
  • the long a sound as in CAKE and
  • the “ah” sound as in ALL.
  • the “uh” sound as in ABOVE

All letters in the English language have sounds associated with them.  Some have one specific sound and others have more than one sound.  The sounds are all dependent on letter combinations within words.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Ever heard that English doesn’t make any sense?

While many believe that the English language doesn’t make any sense, this is not true.  Some letter combinations, called digraphs, appear confusing to many readers (including adults.)  But once explicitly taught, the patterns are easy to recognize.  

Digraghs include:

  • CH-  Church, Christ, Charlotte
  • SH-  Show

An Orton-Gilligham approach to teaching reading and spelling is a solid way to explicitly teach these rules in a way that makes sense to struggling readers.

There are several solid homeschool reading curriculum options based on this extremely effective teaching method.   Two excellent Orton-Gillingham based homeschool reading programs are All About Reading and Logic of English.

Check out this article for more suggestions to equip your child with a solid foundation in reading.

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The Complexity of Reading

Going back to our DOG example, the student will walk through the following steps as he decodes the word:

  • Determines that the 3 letter symbols represent 3 separate sounds
  • Creates the sounds individually
  • After saying the individual sounds out loud, he puts the sounds together in his own mind.
  • Finally, he blends them together so as to clearly say the word DOG

Note:  Just because a child says the word “dog” does not mean that the child is visualizing an image of a dog.

Visualizing: An Overlooked ESSENTIAL Reading Skill

Being able to visualize is a skill that many children do not have.  Once kids hit 3rd grade, we often see a rise in “sudden” reading comprehension issues.

Visualizing is an essential reading skill to check for as your child develops the ability to read.   Many children with ADHD, Autism and other executive functioning issues, lack this essential skill.

Adults assume that many language skills (including rhyming, hearing sounds, visualizing, etc) are automatically learned by osmosis.  This is NOT THE CASE!  These often need to be explicitly taught.

Check out this amazing series of resources by Janine Toole, PhD.  Her materials are FREE on Kindle Unlimited. 

I cannot more HIGHLY recommend her resources.  Specific to reading comprehension, Visualization Skills For Reading Comprehension, is AMAZING!!  Don’t overlook this essential skill.

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Reading Fluency

As decoding becomes second-nature, the goal is for kids to become quicker to recognize familiar letter patterns and words.

Using our DOG example:

  • Eventually, the student will see the three letter symbols, D-O-G, and immediately know and verbalize the correct word.  He verbalizes the word aloud effortlessly and moves on to the next letter sequence with speed and confidence.

The ability to read with speed, proper inflection and confidence is what is termed “FLUENCY.”

Reading Comprehension

As you seek help for your struggling reader, you’ll begin to tease out where your child’s reading weakness lies.

Even when successful with earlier stages of reading, many children start to show reading comprehension deficits around 3rd grade.

It is not surprising that this skill would lag behind the other reading skills.  Understanding what is read requires:

  • A child identify how to pronounce a word correctly using his relatively new decoding skills,
  • Once properly spoken aloud, your student must move to the next word,
  • He then has to maintain the previous words in his mind (working memory) in order to process them as a whole,
  • The child to pull from his often limited vocabulary in order to understand.

Here’s the kicker.  Regardless of whether you have a “highly verbal” child, receptive language deficits can still be present.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

When Kids Hate Reading: There’s A Reason!

Language processing deficits and gaps in oral and auditory language skills are a HUGE issue for children (and adults).

Most educators and administrators are clueless to this essential issue impacting way too many children. 

Instead of seeking root language issues, many of these kids have been labeled:

  • LAZY
  • Slow
  • Much worse…

If You Want To Help Your Struggling Reader, You May Have To Go Backwards

If you have a struggling reader, it’s critical to look at foundational oral and auditory language skills.  Deficits in these essential skills appear in many different areas of life and can have devastating consequences if not addressed.

Symptoms of oral and auditory language gaps include:


  • Resist reading at all costs, 
  • Reads a book but then completely “forgets” what he/she read,
  • Cries at the thought of school work,
  • Struggles with word problems in math,
  • Consistently responds with, “I don’t know,” or “What?” when asked questions,
  • Uses demonstrative and indefinite pronouns (non-specific words) such as: “That thing over there,” (to describe a pencil on a desk),
  • Can’t follow multi-step directions,
  • And more.

Check out Dr. Daniel Franklin’s Helping Your Child With Language-Based Learning Disabilities for more information.  

Gaps In Language Processing & Development Must Be Addressed

If your child demonstrates any combination of these issues, know this.  There is likely a gap in language development.

These kids often struggle terribly with a sense of shame, feelings of never being enough as well as social issues. 

Please don’t yell at or shame them by telling them to work harder or pay attention.  Equip themGet a private Speech and Language Eval by a reputable SLP.  

All About Learning Press 20 Best Tips

So what do you do for your struggling reader?

Do not be afraid if your child struggles with reading.  Your child can read.  I truly believe every child can thrive and succeed when equipped based on their own unique needs and wiring.  

There is always a way.  By diving deep, and by being willing to think outside-the-box, you can equip your child to become a reader.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheet

Homeschooling To Equip Struggling Readers To Thrive

One of the greatest blessings is living in a country where we can homeschool our children.  For tips for the new homeschooling mom, click here. 

Homeschooling affords parents the ability to seek out the best possible resources and support to meet the needs of the individual learner.

Check out this series of posts here to help you in your journey to equip your uniquely-wired child to thrive academically, emotionally, and in all the things.

  1. Orton-Gillingham Homeschool Reading & Spelling Curriculum That Works
  2. Best Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum For Learning Differences
  3. Strategies For Struggling Readers

Don’t panic, Momma!  We’re in this together.  Comment below with your questions about how to help your struggling reader.

Listen To Episode 29 & Be Encouraged To Parent Your Unique Child Differently!

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Effectively Calm a Child During a Meltdown

Effectively Calm a Child During a Meltdown

How to Calm Your Child During a Meltdown

Do you know how to calm your child during a meltdown?  BTW… I am referring to your kid’s meltdown… not yours.  That’s another blog post.

If you have an adopted child, a child with cognitive differences, or if you’re just in a tougher season with your kiddo, the relevance of this question is even more profound.

Calming Our Kids’ Meltdowns Requires Calming Our Own 

Raising a higher-needs child can be exhausting.  

And the reality is that the way that our child’s cognitive differences show up on any given day can definitely impact the severity of our momma fatigue.  Right?

Our kids’ tantrums and meltdowns are exponentially magnified as we battle our own internal dialogue and unmet expectations.  For the mom in the trenches, finding a way to calm her child during a meltdown can feel impossible.

Help Calm A Child During Meltdown

My Own Hot Mess

Girl, I know this because I’ve lived it.  While in the thick of my son’s daily tantrums and meltdowns, I was a hot mess.  And while I would like to say that by using the word hot I’m refering to my physical appearance, let’s just say,

“Yeah, right.”

At that time, I considered the day a win if I was able to get a shower in and brush my teeth.  Please tell me you can relate.  Sadly, that was my reality.

Make It Stop, Please.

And while I often said this in jest as a way to try to make light of my desperation, deep down I just wanted to get away and hide.  Anywhere.


All of the parenting strategies I knew to use were absolutely useless.  I felt helpless, overwhelmed, and as if I was going crazy.  I had no idea how to calm my child during his meltdowns and rages.  Let alone calm my own.  Ouch.

Shifting Perspective On Discipline

Before adopting our son, I would never have believed my family would end up where we had in that brutal season.  In my “perfect parenting days,” I would have looked at me and my kid and thought,

‘That mom has zero control over her child.  She needs to get it together.’

At least that is what I would likely have believed deep down inside.  Once my son’s volatile behaviors began to display themselves at 18 months old, our family was completely rocked.

Me in particular?   Shattered.  To hear more, listen in to the interview with my friend, Wren Robbins.

A Mom Living In Constant Anxiety

All that I thought I knew about being a good Christian mom failed. 

In fact, each technique and strategy that once worked with my girls was useless and completely ineffective with my son. Everything I depended on to anchor my identity as a good Christian mom dissipated.  

As a result, confusion and anxiety became the driving force of my life.

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The Christian Parenting Books

In my earlier parenting years, I read every Christian parenting book I could get my hands on.  If one of my girls dared to have their version of a meltdown, I brought order quickly.  A firm voice or swift consequence and those perceived infractions were done (most of the time).

“Absolutely not.  Not appropriate.”

Those scathing words did the trick.  The girls acquieced and it was over.   And I was proud of this accomplishment.  Good Christian momma, right?  (Insert sarcasm.)

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Unhealthy Expectations

In hindsight, I can see that my perspective on parenting was pretty skewed from the beginning.  I was determined to parent my children the EXACT OPPOSITE way my parents had raised me.  (Sorry, Mom and Dad.  It took me too long to figure it out.)

In my home, there would be love, stability, consistency and discipline. Dang it!

God clearly had greater plans for our family than to be a behavior modification lab.  And so He delivered our baby boy into our home.  

Unregulated Child Led to Meltdowns

Once mobile, our son screamed and steamrolled his way through our home every second of the day.

  1. scaling walls,
  2. escaping the house,
  3. hitting,
  4. scratching,
  5. biting and
  6. throwing and smashing glasses, frames, dishes, etc…

Did I mention screaming?  Oh… not sleeping ever?!!    There wasn’t a single parenting strategy that helped calm him during his raging meltdowns.  Nothing I could do to gain any control.

RELATED Podcast Episode: Why We’ve Got To Parent Differently

Desperate To Stop The Meltdowns

Every I knew to do as a good Christian mom, as an educator, failed miserably.  Not one peaceful way to prevent him from getting into whatever it was he wanted to ingest or play with.

“No, Buddy.  You can’t eat batteries.”

Then it followed.  The sound that prededed that sudden burning sensation travelling across my face.


His frustration tolerance was non-existent.  The slightest resistance to his efforts resulted in aggression and rage.  Most often, it was towards me.

Suffering Leads to Good Even If It Sucks

We were living in a war zone, navigating grenades at every turn.  Despite being surrounded by a loving Christian community, I felt so alone.  Drowning in shame and isolation,  I believed that I was a failure as a parent.

I was devastated for my husband, my two daughters and for my boy.  His hourly meltdowns were too much for me, for the girls, and for him.

He was suffering just as much, but to most people, he looked like a “normal” little boy who was being a brat.  This couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

Shame, Marginalization of Way Too Many Kids & Families

Ultimately, my family lived in what felt like hell for years.  The term emotional anguish doesn’t do it justice.  And here is the thing:  My family wasn’t alone.

There are millions special needs families in our country living this life of chaos, fear and shame.  Whether through biology or through adoption, when kids don’t behave the world wants them to, entire families suffer.  Often alone.

Trauma.  It’s real and it’s pervasive.  FASD is real.   

And it needs to be ripped out of the shadows and exposed for what it is in the foster and adoption world.  (Again, another post.)

christian special needs moms positive parenting course

The Need For True Self-Care

“Parents take way too much credit when their children are doing well. They take way too much credit when their children are doing poorly.”

Rather than checking myself into a mental institution for what promised to be a mini-vacation, I decided to make a different plan.  In order to prevent myself from setting the house on fire because I was about to lose it, I made an appointment for counseling.

Side note:  No one panic… I was never going to set my house on fire.  Hyperbole is a powerful literary technique.  That’s the way I roll.

Making the Call

One winter morning after a few hours of desperately trying to maintain some level of calm in the house, I hit a wall.  I was so overwhelmed,

  • with his screeching.
  • knowing my daughters were struggling in the chaos,
  • and with my own distress

I sent out a mass S.O.S. text to my tribe of girlfriends and asked for a Christian counselor referral.   Within an hour I had an appointment scheduled.  

Seeking help in the form of counseling was a game changer in my story as it is for so many women.

christian moms, strong willed children, trauma-informed parenting

Hell to Humble

God used that time of absolute hell to humble me.  It broke me in a million tiny pieces.  My prideful butt was so black and blue from the beating that my son’s behavior inflicted upon me.

In true form, God took those million pieces, gathered them up and delivered me into Christian counseling.  The late Dr. Karyn Purvis wrote in her book, The Connected Child,

When an adult is avoiding her own history, entangled in her past, or disorganized about her losses, she can’t accurately assess and respond to a harmed child’s reality. 


Meltdowns- Moms Have To Deal With The Root Of Their Own

Unquestionably, I had a lot of my own emotional garbage to weed through.

Apparently, I needed a major kick in the pants to make that initial call.  Needless to say, my astute counselor and I have done some serious work these past few years.  One of the many nuggets of truth she has offered to me has been this.

We as parents take way too much responsibility for the successes and failures of our children.

It took me awhile to chew and digest this, but it finally clicked.

Inability Saves My Family

My inability to control my son saved my entire family.  Ultimately, could I prevent my 3 year old from running into the street every single time he tried?   Nope.

We couldn’t prevent him from using a broom handle to unhook the chain locks to escape the house.  Try?  Yes.  Guarantee success?  No way.

Force him to sleep and to “obey right away?”   Yeah right.  

Moms, Kid Meltdowns & The Lie Of Control

I had zero control over him then and have zero control now.  In order to effectively parent my son, I had to completely shift my perspective on parenting and discipline.   

I had to wake up to the notion that my boy’s cognitive differences made his ability to self-regulate well a very difficult task.

A Secure Mom And Kid Meltdowns

A Complete Shift Led to Big Changes

Historically, I viewed childhood behaviors as do most in our culture: through the lens of all behavior is willful.  Once I recognized my son’s cognitive needs and differences, I was able to see his need to be taught how to behave in a way that he could process and recieve.

This allowed me to respond to his meltdowns not from a place of offense, but from a place of support.  Instead of freaking out and coming down hard on him, I could meet him where he was with grace.

Kid Behavior Doesn’t Define A Good Mom

So many women believe a huge lie.  It says that something is wrong with us if our kid doesn’t behave the way the world wants them to.  

We literally become offended by or surprised by our kids’ meltdowns and tantrums (especially when in public).

In the face of “bad” behavior, we become trapped by the urge to stop the behavior.  

Fear is a Liar

This is not good, Momma.  By parenting from this place of fear, we end up missing the real issue and the cycle often continues.

Dr. Purvis put it in her book, The Connected Child,

Only a secure mother can say, “Tell me what hurts, sweetheart,” and listen attentively and respectfully to the answer…. Only a secure mother can find the heart of the highest-risk child.

Scripture tells us that God seeks after the heart, right?

Dr. Purvis’s words may be hard to process, but I know from experience how true they are.  My own insecurities and fear made navigating my son’s meltdowns exponentially more difficult.

Perspective Shift Game Changer

We have seen HUGE changes in my son’s behavior since my shift in perspective.  From willful disobedience to not yet equipped.

Game changer.  Miraculous changes.  He is not perfect by any means.   No one is.  But we’ve seen huge gains in my son’s ability to calm himself when he feels out of control.  Even in the year since this blog post was first written, my boy has come so far and I am so grateful.

christian special needs moms positive parenting course

Stop The Narrative of  “Inherently Bad”

My heart hurts for all of the kids who grow up believing that they are “inherently bad” because they can’t seem to get it together.

  • I’m never enough.
  • I’m always a disappointment.
  • What’s wrong with me?

Just think about how many adults we know that live in the dire wake of growing up believing themselves a disappointment.  

We all know someone.  And the truth is that that someone may just be us.

The Cycle of Meltdowns & Mental Health

That someone may be in the grocery store right now standing by in horror.  She is watching her child kick and scream because he wants candy.

She may be dripping with sweat and covered in shame as she navigates all the lies that tell her she is not enough.  I’ve been there.

Have you?  Are you there now?  Isn’t it enough already?

Special Needs Moms- Together

It’s ok to parent our kids differently, Sweet Momma.   We can do this together.   Let’s change the narrative for our…

  • higher-needs
  • highly-sensitive
  • neurodiverse
  • trauma-impacted
  • ADHD
  • Autistic
  • sensory sensitive kids.

Friend, I am convinced that all moms need a parenting growth mindset.  For the sake of our kids and our sanity, let’s be willing to at least examine it.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

Parenting & Discipline Strategy For Adults

Parenting & Discipline Strategy For Adults

The #1 Parenting and Discipline Strategy 

Every momma wants to know the #1 parenting and discipline strategy for her kids.

We all want that secret sauce to create the best kids.  You know what I am talking about.

Because we fiercely love our children, we moms desperately want to do this thing right.

So we search and search for the parenting and discipline strategy that will make our kids behave and turn into who we want them to be.

We have to, right?  I mean, really…

Who wants their kid to grow up to be a psychopath or self-centered narcissist?  

The world tells us that it is all up to us.  That raising a functioning adult (or at least avoiding the psychopath part) requires a specific parenting and discipline strategy.


The Elusive Perfect Parenting & Discipline Strategy

Good for you if you are the lucky mom who has found that secret sauce.

If your kid is one of the “good” ones who makes you look good wherever you go, this post is not for you.

Godspeed, Lucky Lady.

Now, if you are like me and so many other moms in this world, it’s time for us to get real.

Being a mom is a wonderful experience.  It grows us in so many ways.  But it is in no way easy or simple.

As I have learned the hard way, parenting requires adults to demonstrate the discipline and patience we desperately want to impart to our kids. 

That takes work and effort.  And a good look in the mirror.


Parenting & Disciplline Strategies

First Parenting Instinct: Reaction

When our children are “disobedient,” often our first instinct is to use our default parenting and discipline strategy.

If you were raised in a traditional household or the United States of America, your norm for parenting may tell you to put a stop to bad behavior ASAP.

This was certainly the case for me.  Maybe you can relate.

In the face of outward disobedience, you may offer a quick and stern warning.

“No, ma’am! You do not behave that way!”

And many times that approach to parenting children appears on the outside to work.

Our kids acquiesce in the face of fear and the negative behavior stops, at least momentarily.

But what about our kids who are wired-differently?


God looks at the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7

devotional bible study special needs moms

No Room For Mistakes

When my oldest, now 14, was little, any hint of disobedience was met with that firm approach that allowed no room for mistakes.

While I was a very loving, highly-engaged, and super fun mom, I was also parenting my kid from a place of fear.

I feared that if I did not approach outward disobedience swiftly, I would be opening the door to having “that” kid.

And that would be my fault.  I would be a bad mom.

And honestly, is that a surprise?

Outward behavior is generally seen as the be all end all within the church and our culture.  Regardless of whether or not we admit it…

For me, the message was loud and clear that the slightest crack of the bad behavior door was unacceptable.

The messages that tell us…

1. That our value as a mother is based on our kids’ behavior

She had better nip that behavior in the bud.

2. A good mom has a good kid.

 The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

3. A good kid behaves the way all the adults around them wants.

You need to give your Aunt Sally a hug regardless of how you feel.  It’s just polite.

I think I just threw up a bit.  Ugh.

Ultimate Goal?

But is the ultimate goal of our parenting to simply stop bad behavior in the moment?

I am not so sure anymore.

Friend, there is a problem with this “nip behavior in the bud” parenting and discipline mentality.

The problem lies when our pattern of parenting is based only on reaction to perceived misbehavior.  Without stopping to make sure our perception is correct.  When we get so caught up in our kids’ outward behavior that we fail to reach their hearts.


  • When we assume a child who is screaming bloody murder in the church foyer is just being a brat.
    • Except he is overwhelmed by all of the sounds, smells and fear of being left with strangers
  • When we judge that teen girl because she is dressed all in black covered in piercings and dark eyeliner
    • We fail to ask her about her broken heart over never being enough

God looks at the heart, right?

Rally Mission | Why I Started

Raising Kids to Be Adults

God willing, our kids are going to spend roughly 75-80% of their lives as adults.  So when we are looking for the most effective parenting and discipline strategies, we need to keep our end goal in mind.

Let’s set our kids up for a healthy future by teaching them that outward behavior is not the be all end all.

It’s their hearts that we must be after.

A child who feels loved, valued and connected to the adults around them feels safe to process through the heart issues that precede negative behaviors.

Let’s learn to seek relationship with our children regardless of what things look like on the outside.

As a believer in Jesus, I cannot strive for anything less than a relationship-based approach.  That is what the Gospel is all about.

In spite of our outward ugly behavior, God seeks us through relationship with His Son.  We are internally changed through relationship, not punishment.


The Greatest Discipline Strategy?  Mom’s Grace

The greatest parenting and discipline strategy is for the adults in this world.  We need to train ourselves to see behind the behavior and seek our kids’ hearts.

A mom willing to look beyond the parenting paradigm.  The mom willing to “look bad” in front of others who want her to “nip that behavior in the bud.”

You will know her.

She is the mom whose kid is screaming and melting down in the middle of the grocery store.

Instead of dripping with sweat worrying about what you think, she is offering her overwhelmed and exhausted child grace.

And when that momma hears an old lady saying something like,

“She had better get that kid under control,”

That momma could care less.

She knows the truth of humanity’s brokenness is covered in the grace of God through relationship with His Son.  Grace and truth.

Let’s go with God on this one, Friend.  For the sake of our kids, let’s go with God.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

Raising a Neurodiverse Kid (To Fail)?

Raising a Neurodiverse Kid (To Fail)?

Are You Raising a Neurodiverse Kid to Fail?

Are you one of the millions of moms raising a neurodiverse kid?   How about a child with ADHD, Autism, Sensory Issues or a learning disability?  Let me ask you this… Do you believe that our children are all unique?   
No.  Really.  Deep down inside, do you really believe it is ok for our kids to be different?  Why, then, do we as moms struggle so much when our children think and process the world differently?   

I am convinced that it is because we moms have been believing a lie, Friend.  

christian mom raising adhd kids

Lies We Believe When Raising a Neurodiverse Kid

There is this idea that tells us something is wrong with our kids if they don’t fit into the box of the world’s expectations.  And of course, for many of us, that idea then spirals into this one.
“I am a bad mom because my kid doesn’t fall in line.”
It gets worse.  There is another message out there that so many of us moms believe without ever questioning its validity.  You know the one I am talking about.
It rears its ugly head when traditional discipline and education don’t work with our child. 
Something must be wrong with my child.  

Ugh.  I cringe even thinking about this.

When our kids don’t fall in line, many of us default to a line of thinking often perpetuated in our culture.  Something is wrong with my my kids and I need to fix it.

And when we’re raising a neurodiverse kid, this can be extremely dangerous and destructive.  Listen to episode 29 for more support to move the needle forward with your child.  

Devotional Christian Special Needs Mom

What is neurodiversity?

Let’s back up a bit.

What is neurodiversity?

According to Understood.org, neurodiversity is:

Neurodiversity is a viewpoint that brain differences are normal, rather than deficits.

The idea of neurodiversity can have benefits for kids with learning and thinking differences.

This concept can help reduce stigma around learning and thinking differences.

Here is the deal.  We say we celebrate diversity in our country, but then we shame those who don’t fall in line.  The kids who

  • act differently,
  • say the “wrong” thing,
  • look differently because they wear the wrong clothes,
  • like the “wrong” things…

For the sake of our kids’ futures, this has got to stop.

christian mom raising adhd kids

Take God At His Word

Perhaps, our neurodiverse kids were never meant to “fall in line”?   If you are a Christian mom like me, you may struggle with this.

Many of us have been told by our church culture that behavior A, B, & C are appropriate.  Then we are told that Behaviors X, Y and Z are inappropriate.

The next message is loud and clear.  It’s our job to control our kids’ behaviors based on these rules.

But what happens when our kids do things differently?  When they don’t respond and fall in line?  We often panic and push harder with the same old parenting strategies that DO NOT work.

Devotional Christian Special Needs Mom

Neurodiverse Kids Need Moms To Think Differently

Maybe you are the momma who watches her child break down with anxiety when it’s “homework” time.  Or are you the mom who has been “kicked out” of playgroup because your child doesn’t know how to “behave” appropriately?  

Perhaps you are like so many other moms who wake at 2:00 am overwhelmed and gripped with fear.  You know your child is struggling but you don’t know what to do.  Your mind races as to what you can do to lift up and support your child well. 

Everything the “experts” tell you only causes angst, pain and broken relationship between you and your child.

Sensory Meltdowns Are Not Bad Behavior

Or you may be the mom who is late to church because your kid had a meltdown in the parking lot because the tag on her new pair of pants is driving her INSANE.  You try desperately to create cohesion in between your kids, but your one child screams bloody murder because his sister won’t stop singing. 

Your child is overwhelmed and needs you to stop and love them through it, but all eyes are on you telling you to nip that in the bud. 

Shame.  One of the most destructive tools of the enemy.

christian moms and teens

Are you over it?

You may be over listening to those who advise you to continue pushing, disciplining and punishing for “bad behavior.”

  • That you aren’t praying hard enough.
  • You are too lenient.
  • Your child is manipulating you and has to learn sometime.

Have these approaches been successful for you?  What about your child?

I can only imagine it is not going well.

Neurodiverse Kids Need Us to Believe in Them

What would happen if we moms came together and started to think outside-the-box for our uniquely-wired kids?

Imagine a tribe of moms supporting one another through the tough moments.

When our approach to our exhuasted and tantrumming kid is a co-regulating hug rather than the acceptable time-out, we’ve got each others’ backs.

Collectively we can fight against the unhealthy desire to people please.  And when the naysayers call us helicopter parents, we confidently hold our heads high knowing we’re doing the best we can to meet the needs of our own unique kids.

Together, we can embrace our kids’ unique-wiring and allow our kids to be who they are.  Moms sharing a vision of a bright and thriving future for each of our unique children.

Devotional Christian Special Needs Mom

Raising a Neurodiverse Kid: Change the Narrative

Let’s change the narrative for our outside-the-box thinkers.

For our kids with:

  • ADHD 
  • Autism 
  • Sensory Processing Issues
  • Learning Differences
  • Anxiety…

Or for the kids who may not have a diagnosis:

  • The child who says, “I don’t know” all the time…
  • Or the one who can’t stop moving, talking or is impulsive,
  • The kid whose room is always a mess,
  • Here is a BIG one… the child who won’t obey no matter what…

Is the traditional approach working?

It’s time for us moms to come together and change the narrative for our outside-the-box kids.  There is a better way.

I think we can.  In fact, I know we can because we are already doing it.  We would love to have you join us.

my kid hates writing, homeschool help

Raising Neurodiverse Kids Through A New Lens

When we shift our thinking, we then will be able to equip our kids with what they need.  We mommas can then give them the support, encouragement and tools they need to use those perceived weaknesses as the strengths that they really are.

No more kids growing up with self-worth that tells them they will never be good enough so why bother.  Every child has been blessed by God with gifts, passions and purpose.  Let’s begin to parent them this way, Mommas.

We are in this together equipping our uniquely-designed kids to thrive.

christian special needs mom bible study and parenting course

P.S Check out my friend Tina’s story

My dear friend, Tina, has been living out this momma growth mindset with her teen daughter.

Tina’s daughter was diagnosed with Selective Mutism, just one of many forms of childhood anxiety, at the age of 12.

Her daughter shares her story navigating the world of not being able to speak outside the safety of her home for years.  She offers 5 tips to support our anxious kids.

Note how she describes her mother’s role in supporting her.  Read more here.  

Be encouraged, Friend.  We’re in this together.  

Recommended Reading For Moms Raising Kids With ADHD, SPD, ASD (or No Acronym At All)

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook
adoptive special needs christian mom book

Grab A Copy Of Behind the Behaviors!

For the weary Christian momma who doesn’t know what else to do.

I hear you. I’ve been there. I get it.  That is why I wrote this book.

Know this… God chose you on purpose to raise your uniquely-wired child.  

Grab a copy, be equipped & be encouraged.

Homeschool Writing Instruction with IEW

Homeschool Writing Instruction with IEW

Homeschool Writing Curriculum That Works

Homeschool writing instruction does not have to be painful for the student or the homeschool mom.  So many homeschool moms worry when their child hates to write because she often hears…

I can’t do this.

My hand hurts.

I hate this!

Please.  No!!

Don’t fear, Sweet Momma.  Today I offer up some stress-free writing strategies to help reluctant or resistant writers build confidence in writing.   No more tears and stress!  Check out the podcast episode and find relief from the homeschool battles.

While you can use the strategies I provide without purchasing a curriculum, I do share my absolute favorite homeschool writing program.

Hint… Andrew Pudewa… Institute for Excellence in Writing.   Can I say amazing??!!!

When in doubt, remember your goal.    Think outside-the-box with me and let’s equip our kids to thrive!

Also, for a more in-depth explantation and guide to remove writing barriers for our kids, listen to Episode #20.  Or, if you prefer to read it, check out the blog post My Child Hates to Write! 7 Homeschool Writing Tips

homeschool writing tips, reluctant writer

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling