It really can make a difference when you get involved in your Aspergers child's life. Aspergers teens are much less likely to have mental health and substance use problems when they have positive activities to do and when caring adults are involved in their lives. Your involvement and encouragement tell your Aspergers child that he and his activities are worthwhile and may help him identify and pursue positive goals as he gets older. Additionally, you will be better able to see changes in your child that may indicate a problem. This section will give you some ideas about ways to become more involved in your child's life.
The Importance of Family Mealtime—
What’s dinnertime like in your home? Does everyone heat up their own meal in the microwave at different times and retire to their own corner of the house? Eating dinner together as a family has become a lost art, but Family Day—A Day To Eat Dinner With Your Aspergers Kids is a chance for rediscovery. Pick a night that works for your family and gather everyone around the table. The benefits of eating together will last long after your meal ends, especially if you make family mealtimes a regular activity.
Why Are Family Mealtimes Important?
• According to CASA’s 2000 Teen Survey, over the past 4 years, there has been an increase in the number of kids who eat dinner with their families every night. This may be related to increased awareness about the positive impact of dining with your family.
• According to the 2000 Teen Survey conducted by CASA, Aspergers kids who don’t eat dinner with their families are 61 percent more likely to use alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs. By contrast, kids who eat dinner with their families every night of the week are 20 percent less likely to drink, smoke, or use illegal drugs.
• By eating with your Aspergers kids, it’s more likely that they’ll eat healthier foods and more balanced meals.
• Dining together is a chance for moms and dads and kids to talk with one another. Parental influence and involvement is an important tool in preventing substance abuse. Regularly sitting down for a meal with your kids is one way to connect with them and be involved with what’s happening in their lives.
• Other research has shown that teens who eat frequent family dinners are less likely than other teens to have sex at young ages, get into fights, or be suspended from school, and they are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide.
What Should We Talk About?
• Ask everyone to share his or her favorite part of the day.
• Discuss an activity the family can do together.
• Plan the next day’s dinner together.
• Share your own childhood memories.
• Talk to your Aspergers kids about a book they’re reading or a movie they’ve seen.
Eating dinner together every night is an opportunity to open the doors of communication. This will help you find out more about your kid’s likes, dislikes, and daily life. Having this information can help you direct your kids toward positive activities and behavior, reducing the likelihood that they’ll get involved with alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.
Where Did the Time Go?
Time flies! It’s an old saying, but in today’s fast-paced world, it’s never been so true. Before we know it, our kids are all grown up—out on their own or off to college. Most moms and dads realize the rewards of close family ties. Yet the demands of jobs and day-to-day household activities can be stressful and tiring. So, it’s easy for quality time with our kids to get squeezed out. You won’t want to find yourself looking back, amazed at how quickly it went, and realizing you missed something special. More important, spending time with your Aspergers child gives you a chance to shape his values. As your Aspergers child gets older, you can provide a good frame of reference as he is exposed to the growing influence of peers and popular culture. The more time you spend with your child, the more you will be able to help him tune in to his abilities, skill-building activities, and healthy friendships.
Okay, but does your Aspergers child want to spend time with you? As kids get older, they begin to declare their independence. But studies show that most youth like spending time with their moms and dads. So, if you set fair rules and give your child the freedom that’s right for her age, you most likely will be able to enjoy each other’s company.
Time set aside works well—family dinner hour, homework time, shopping, trips, or a game in the evening. Still, finding real "quality" time can be tough. So, take advantage of that one-on-one time that just happens as you are cooking, caring for a pet, riding in the car, or raking leaves.
What is quality time? Quality time means communicating in an upbeat and useful way—watching TV in silence doesn’t count. Talking with Aspergers kids is one of the best things you can do to help them grow up confident and secure.
How to strike up a chat? Ask questions that take more than a yes or no answer. Ask younger kids to explain something or talk about a story you read together, objects you found in nature together, or their take on school and friends. With older kids and teens, talk about issues and events that occur outside the home or neighborhood. Ask teens for their opinions. Discuss the meaning of movies and ads. Mention problems you had during the day and how you dealt with them. Problem-solving skills can keep kids from turning to alcohol and illegal drugs to deal with troubles or from going along with risky activities.
Be positive. Praise your Aspergers child for things you might take for granted, such as getting up on time, helping set the table, or doing homework without being told. Praise hard work as well as success. Avoid value judgments. Show you understand even if you don’t agree. Let your Aspergers child know you respect his feelings and help him work through hard situations. He’ll probably welcome your attention even if he doesn’t admit it. Most youth say they turn first to a parent for help in solving problems.
Spending time with your Aspergers child takes more than talk, though. Find a chance each week to do something special with your child. If she is active in sports or creative arts, go to as many events as you can. Exposing kids to activities, people, places, and ideas can stir their imaginations and provide a menu of tempting choices. Take trips, look at art, gaze at stars, and play games. Activities that call for planning, forming, or solving involve making choices and thinking about results. These pursuits will fuel a kid’s curiosity and build creative thinking habits. Find out what she likes. For every interest, there is something to try.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook