One Practice That Will Help Your Kid Thrive

How to help your kid build resilience, develop empathy, and improve emotional regulation.

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Kids and parenting

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I was utterly unprepared for being a bonus mom. And it wasn’t even helping the kids with school work, driving them to their friends or creating meals that were both nurturing and kid-friendly. What shocked me most was how much I loved them. If you’re a parent, you probably know what I mean. Even when your little monster drives you up the wall, you’d still do whatever it takes to make sure they’re healthy & happy. Watching your kid suffer can be excruciating. Unfortunately, when you’re parenting a neurodivergent kid, it happens more often than it should.

Neurodivergent kids, so kids who are gifted or autistic, who have ADHD, or who have some other type of brain wiring that society considers extraordinary (in a good or a bad way) are often the odd ones out. They care about different things and/or they express themselves in a unique way. And this wouldn’t be a bad thing, but… unfortunately they often don’t fit in with their neurotypical peers. Best-case scenario: they are accepted, but they never feel like they fully connect with their friends. Worst-case scenario: they are bullied. Both scenarios are lonely and it can be hard to change this. And while I’m no genie, I did find one practice that really helps.

The power of questions

The practice I’m talking about is self-enquiry. Self-enquiry is basically asking yourself questions so you can get to know yourself better. And yes, with your help, kids can do it, too.

You might wonder how this is going to help your kid. Honestly? In a ton of ways. I’ll just name the most important ones.

  1. Building confidence and self-love. Self-enquiry helps your kid look inside themselves instead of comparing themselves to others. So instead of focusing on everything your kid is not, they can start focusing on all of the amazing things they are. Neurodivergent kids have all kinds of amazing traits and talents, and seeing those clearly will help them do things that work for them instead of trying to fit in.
  2. Improving emotional regulation. When kids understand how they feel, they can start being more intentional about the way they handle their emotions. For instance, this might help kids who are very sensitive to change or certain stimuli to understand what’s going on with them and how this can be resolved.
  3. Developing empathy. Self-enquiry helps kids understand that some things they’d take for granted are actually different for different people. Not only does this help them develop empathy towards others, it also helps them articulate their own differences so others can understand them better.

On top of that, if you as an adult help your kids get to know themselves by asking them questions about themselves and discussing the answers, you get to know them better. I never stop being surprised how many assumptions I have about my bonus kids that turn out to be plain wrong. Listening to them share about themselves helps me navigate parenting in a way that works best for the unique being that they are. So… how can you best encourage self-enquiry in a fun and relaxed way?

5 tips for stimulating self-enquiry in your kid

I could probably write a book about the power of asking questions and the best ways to do this, but here – I want to share my 5 top tips. Try them out for yourself, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

  1. Get casual. One reason why many neurodivergent kids especially tend to keep their true selves hidden is because of shame. They see they’re different and this makes it scary to open up – what if you’re going to judge them? Surprisingly, telling them you won’t, often doesn’t help. What works is lowering the pressure through casual questions. For some reason, my kids often open up when we’re in the car together. I think the lack of eye-contact helps them to voice what’s going on in their minds.
  2. Shut up and listen. All too often, when we ask our kids a question about who they are or what they want, we think we know the answer. We might actually help to steer them in the ‘right’ direction. “What do you want to do this weekend? I think it’s a good idea to go out and play in the sun, don’t you?” For this purpose, let go of your shaping tendencies. Ask a question, then… listen. Don’t make assumptions (not even ones phrased as questions). Don’t talk about yourself. Don’t share your thoughts. Listen.
  3. Get vulnerable. Okay, so once you asked a question, it’s good to shut up and listen. But before that, it’s totally okay to share your experiences, especially if they show how you’re also struggling and are also human. For instance, I’ll tell my kids I used to hate cleaning my room (it’s true, it was a total dump). Then, I ask what they dislike about cleaning their room.
  4. Make it multiple-choice. Even for adults, a lot of questions are hard to answer. Why do we do this or that? What makes something hard? What do we truly want? If your kid (or you yourself) struggle to find the answer, see if you can start by brainstorming together. What are all the answers you could come up with, no matter how ridiculous? For instance, imagine asking your kid why they don’t like cleaning their room. Some possible answers are ‘it’s boring’, ‘I don’t like to touch dirty things’, ‘it’s pointless – it will be a mess again tomorrow anyway’, ‘I don’t know where to start’, ‘I’m afraid there’s a monster hidden in my pile of laundry’ and ‘I took a solemn vow to never ever clean my room’. Once you’ve made it a multiple choice, ask your kid if any of the answers feels true to them.
  5. Don’t judge. Possibly the most important one of the five: your goal is to show your kid that exploring what’s inside their head is safe. So whatever comes out, don’t judge. Consider asking follow-up questions to find out more. After all, this is not about you. If something your kid says keeps triggering you, consider taking some time on your own after your talk to do your own self-enquiry.

Helpful tools

Luckily, just like your kids, you too don’t have to figure everything out by yourself. For more tips, grab out FREE guide with more tips on how to support your kid. On top of that, you’ll be the first to hear when we launch our new card deck aimed at helping neurodivergent kids thrive!

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