4 Ways I Built Trust And Understanding With My Teenager Living on the Spectrum.

We recently went on another trip to the city for another “reward ride.” We all need motivation and for Jace a ride in the subway is worth working for. It’s not my favorite downtime hobby, but I feel as a parent I have to help motivate my children and guide them towards their talents and interests. So grab your metro cards we’re gonna talk about trust.

People often tell me that I am lucky to understand Jace as well as I do. It is not all luck, but hard work creating trust that allows us to connect like this. At a moments notice a new behavior can arise and baffle me once again as in the past, but his trust in me allows us to move forward. Here are 4 ways I build trust to open the channels for understanding.

  1. Think Like A Kid– Sounds simple enough but a lot of the times we get so bogged down with the responsibilities of adulthood, that there is no room for creativity and curiosity, just obligation and expectation. A child feels that attitude especially one on the spectrum. One of the simplest ways I have found to reconnect with that inner child is by getting lost in a children’s movie or show with my son. I let the ridiculousness and wonder of it all flow through me. I comment on how cool something in the movie is or question what the character will do next to show I am engaged in the film and enjoying it, it is not an obligation but a shared interest. My phone and tech are not a concern as we share popcorn and snacks we picked out together. Jace enjoying the gems at The Astor Gallery
  2. Offer Choices- When trying to understand a challenging behavior I find it helpful to narrow the field of choices for my son. I.E. when my son did not want to attend school that was not an offered choice, but he had the choice of taking his iPad and headphones to help with his bus ride, he had the choice to earn stars with helpful behavior so he could get a prize he chose, a choice made within a narrowed field I created as well. I also made it clear to him that it was his choice to lose out on TV time and tech privileges for not attending. Often times we dictate what our kids can do, but we must offer them the idea of freedom through pre-selected choices particular to their interest, guiding rather than controlling, letting them sharpen their abilities to make good choices for themselves in a safe environment. 
  1. Create a Safe Space– Try to keep calm when things don’t go great, be consistent but not rigid or harsh. Kids on the spectrum need structure and the comfort of predictability, just as much as any typical kid. One way I always check my attitude toward Jace is by asking myself would I behave this way in front of a camera or a service provider?  I know it can get very frustrating at times, and the desire to cuss, yell, or even hit are hard to fight but just think about this; it is said that the way we treat the most vulnerable in our lives is the measure of who we truly are. So always check these strong feelings, most of the time they are not even about our children but something more deeply rooted in ourselves and it’s not fair to let our children be the scapegoats so find some good outlets or talk to someone who can help gain clarity like a spouse, trusted friend or therapist.
  1. Create Flexible Intentions Not Expectations-It is important to make intentions for what I want to achieve as a parent, it gives me the necessary confidence to follow through. I.E. when I was getting Jace back on the bus I knew my goal was to get him on the bus, but I couldn’t run to my room and cry about it on days when that didn’t pan out, although that was what I wanted to do. Jace would have been fine with having the run of the house and all the tech, while I was sequestered in my bubble of depression. I had to redirect and carry on our home school schedule to show Jace the importance of learning and what learning days would be like in school or at home. I had to show him why learning mattered and offer a safe, fun environment for him.

Trust is not something easily earned especially once broken. It takes opportunity and action to repair and re-establish.  Actions driven by love and good intent. Opportunities created by the one desiring trust. To really begin to understand someone is to have earned their trust.

Are you having difficulties understanding your child? Try these trust exercises and let me know how it goes for you. Please share any questions or comments in the forum below. If you have some methods you have found helpful, please share.

-JRED

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