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10 Ways Having Special Needs Kids Makes You a Better Person

10 Ways Having Special Needs Kids Makes You a Better Person

Twelve years ago I gave birth to a special little boy, his name is Zach. Nine years ago I had another special boy and his name is Jude. These two boys were diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD respectively.

Now I’m not gonna tell you it’s been all fun, there have been tears and tantrums, heartbreak even–not just theirs–we’ve all had a cry at one point or another. But I wouldn’t change a single thing about our lives.

These guys make us happy. They make us who we are. And if anything we owe them for driving us and motivating us. Here’s how they make us better people.

1. We Become Healthier

We give up late nights, cigarettes and bad food. Not only do we want to set a good example, but we want to be around for these kids for as long as we can.

For many of us special needs parents there lies a concern around the future and what will happen to the kids when we die. It takes our kids longer to prepare for the adult world and so we need to know that someone responsible will be there for them.

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2. We Learn to Be Patient

It takes much longer for our kids to reach milestones. Take Zach for example, his social development is severely delayed. He finds it so difficult to make friends. Other kids need help with speech and language, others with mobility.

We wait and we wait. We prompt, play and comfort. We start each day afresh in the hope that today is the day that our kids will have a breakthrough.

In time it becomes clear that it’s okay when you’re not getting results. We just keep on trying. Acceptance plays a great role here.

3. We Celebrate in Style

When the big day finally comes and our child reaches a milestone–maybe they managed to get up and walk at two years or say their first words at four. We really celebrate with great appreciation.

The relief can’t be quantified every time we have one of these moments. We feel eternally grateful and ever so proud.

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4. We Become Selfless

Many of us simply drop everything when we learn that our child has special needs. We feel we have a duty to do everything in our power to help this child to catch up with their peers–or at least to have the best quality of life that’s possible for them.

5. We Value Our Free Time

What little time we have to ourselves we enjoy thoroughly. We don’t take anything for granted. We appreciate meeting our friends, shopping trips, going out for dinner and any other time we can get to ourselves.

These treats happen so infrequently, they are savored to the nth degree.

6. We Develop a Heightened Sense of Humor

The house is in a mess, the kids are fighting again and you are stressed out–you have an assignment due in the morning.

You could cry, that would be acceptable but we know it won’t get us anywhere; if anything the kids will sense our weakness and play up even more.

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Instead we just laugh it off. Things don’t seem quite so bad anymore.

7. We Become Fighters

As special needs parents we learn to fight for our children’s rights. These kids are told “No” over and over by authorities, whether it’s regarding places in schools, time in rehabilitation and training, speech therapy–the list goes on.

Parents are up against it when it comes to getting the services their kids are entitled to.

We have no choice but to fight. Sometimes we become unpopular or make enemies but it’s all in the name of love for our kids. They can’t fight for themselves.

8. We Become Resilient

We become accustomed to having doors closed in our faces. Doors that should open and welcome our kids. A world where they can develop and flourish.

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We learn to find other ways of getting what we need. We refuse to accept ‘no’ for an answer and we start all over again. This time more determined than before.

9. We Become Less Materialistic

When you find yourself in a constant struggle day in day out you start to realize what’s important in life. We couldn’t care less what make or model our car is or whether our clothes are trendy or not.

None of that stuff matters. All that matters is that we are happy and that our kids are happy.

10.We Develop a Thick Skin

Sometimes our kids are teased at school. Despite our best efforts to put an end to this it can continue. We have to keep going and help our kids to keep going too. It’s the ultimate lesson in developing a thick skin.

I feel blessed that my two little monkeys have taught me all of these valuable lessons. There is no doubt that I am a better person because of Zach and Jude.

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Now to get them off those video games ….

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Published on May 21, 2021

Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

Bedtimes for kids might be one of the most challenging parts of the day. Parents are tired and ready to relax, while kids of all ages seem to find extra energy and want nothing to do with sleep. One more story, one more trip to the bathroom, and one more question quickly make for a late-night, and no one gets the rest they need.

If this happens often, you might start wondering if you and your child are getting the proper amount of sleep and how to make bedtime easier. Why is it so crucial for your child to get enough sleep? What does sleep deprivation look like? How do you improve bedtimes for kids?

How Sleep Impacts Your Child’s Health

Whether young or old, sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. There are many benefits to getting the right amount of sleep while not getting enough can have negative consequences. How does it impact your child?[1]

  • Brain Function – Sleep is linked to certain brain functions such as concentration, productivity, and cognition. These all impact a child’s behavior and academic success.
  • Weight – Sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. A lack of sleep interferes with the ability to regulate food intake, making overeating more likely.
  • Physical Performance – Sleep impacts a person’s physical abilities. Proper rest means better performance, concentration, energy, mental clarity, and faster speed.
  • Physical Health – There are many ways sleep promotes health. Sleep heals the body but also helps prevent disease and health issues. Getting proper rest will regulate blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, reduce chances of sleep apnea, reduce inflammation, boost immune system, and lower risk of weight gain.
  • Improve Mental Health – A lack of sleep has a negative impact on mood and social and emotional intelligence. A child not getting proper sleep is more likely to experience depression, lack empathy and be unaware of other people’s emotions and reactions.

Sleep, Risky Behavior, and Teens

Studies found that teens were more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are sleep-deprived. They’ll have problems regulating their mood, making them more short-tempered, aggressive, and impulsive. Their inability to self-regulate can even look like the symptoms of ADHD.[2]

Sleep deprivation becomes hazardous when teens are driving. The impulsiveness and risk-taking, along with exhaustion, put them at a higher risk for accidents. In fact, driving tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08.[3]

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You can see why sleep is so essential to everyone’s health, but how much is needed? What do pediatricians recommend? Is it the same for all ages?

Sleep Recommendations From Pediatricians

Sleep requirements vary by age. It won’t be the same for every individual. Some people find that they need more sleep than others.

Here is a basic guideline of what pediatricians now recommend:[4]

  • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

Increase the amount of sleep if your child isn’t thriving on the recommended amount.

Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

There are ways to tell if your child is getting adequate sleep beyond the usual grumpiness. Here are specific things to watch out for:[5]

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  • Excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Difficulty waking up on time
  • Hyperactivity
  • Depression
  • Inattention
  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Impulse control

As you can see, prolonged lack of sleep can cause relational problems and hinder your child’s ability to do well in school. What can you do if you realize your child is not getting enough sleep? How can you improve bedtimes for your kids?

How to Set Up a Bedtime Routine

Sleep hygiene or a bedtime schedule will help your child fall asleep faster. It will also improve the quality of sleep. You will need to adjust to what works for your family, but the following suggestions can help everyone have a more pleasant bedtime.

For Babies

Most people think they have to let their baby “cry it out” at bedtime. However, there are ways you can teach a baby to sleep without tears, making the experience more pleasant for everyone. In fact, studies show the faded bedtime method—or gentle sleep training—is just as effective as leaving a baby to cry but without the stress.[6] What is gentle sleep training?

Gentle Sleep Training

This method eases babies and young children into falling asleep on their own. There are two ways to do this:

1. Positive Routines With Faded Bedtime

Kids learn to fall asleep easily by using comforting, quiet, and predictable rituals, up to twenty minutes long. The key is to choose a bedtime that’s not too early. A child that isn’t tired will only fight sleep.

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Start the process when your baby or child is sleepy, even if it’s later than you’d prefer. You’ll notice a pattern and quickly discover the time they naturally start winding down. Make this their bedtime for now. They will learn to associate sleep with the routine, and you’ll be able to start fifteen to twenty minutes earlier to slowly adjust their schedule.

2. Sleep With Parental Presence

With this method, you lie down with your baby or child until they fall asleep. Over time, you pay less attention to your child, gradually sitting up, then sitting in a chair. Eventually, your child will be able to sleep without you. A study showed that using this method helped infants sleep longer and wake up less.[7]

Both of these ways take time but are effective and less traumatic than leaving an infant or young child to cry.

More Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better

You want to build a routine, but how? What are practical things you can do to help your baby get ready for bed?

Here are tips for a soothing and calm bedtime:[8]

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  • Help set their “internal clock” by exposing them to natural daylight, daytime activities, and the calmness of evening.
  • Block blue light exposure.
  • Make the hour up to bedtime calm, peaceful, and pleasant.
  • Learn how to keep stress minimal for you and your baby.
  • Don’t force sleep. It will increase anxiety and make rest more difficult.
  • Avoid late afternoon naps
  • Prolong the time between nap and bedtime.
  • Feed baby right before bed.
  • Avoid intervening too soon if the baby starts to wake up. Give your child a chance to fall back asleep without your help.

For Elementary-Aged Children

It’s easier to follow a routine if you start young, but it’s never too late to begin. The good news is it only takes a few nights to notice an improvement in your child’s sleep.

These ideas will help you set up a schedule that will encourage your child to fall asleep easier, faster, and for a more extended period.[9]

  • Offer them a nutritious snack.
  • Bathe them.
  • Brush their teeth and go to the bathroom.
  • Read them a story.
  • Sing them a song.
  • Cuddle or massage them.
  • Talk about the day.

For best results, choose a handful of activities and do them in the same order each night. Dim the lights and keep activity minimal to help everyone slow down.

For Teens

They might fight the idea of getting more sleep, but teens will benefit from a routine, too. They’re usually capable of overseeing their bedtime, but a little structure and oversight can help them get the sleep they need. By implementing the following tips, your teen can get better rest.[10]

  • Avoid caffeine in the evening.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Avoid late-night binging.
  • Exercise, ideally sixty minutes a day.
  • Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Talk through problems.

Quality Sleep for a Healthy Life

Bedtimes for kids can be an enjoyable part of the day with proper sleep hygiene in place. Not only can it be quality time with your child, but it can also set them on the road to good health and high performance. By implementing these tips, you can ensure proper rest for the whole family and better bedtimes for kids.

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Featured photo credit: Igordoon Primus via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medical News Today: Why Sleep Is Essential For Health
[2] Child Mind Institute: Teens And Sleep: The Cost Of Sleep Deprivation
[3] Depart of Health: Drowsy Driving Prevention, Teens Ages 16 To 19
[4] AAP publications: AAP Endorses New Recommendations On Sleep Times
[5] Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: Sleep Deprivation In Children A Growing Public Health Concern
[6] Parenting Science: Gentle Infant Sleep Training
[7] BetterHealth: Solutions to sleep concerns (11) – babies 6 to 12 months
[8] Parenting Science: 15 Evidence-Based Baby Sleep Tips
[9] Sleep Foundation: Bedtime Routines For Children
[10] NHS: Sleep Tips For Teenagers

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