Friday, June 21, 2024

Episode #80: Parenting Emotionally Intense Kids

Show Notes: In this interview, Tonya speaks with Anouk Brière-Godbout about parenting emotionally intense children, especially those with special needs. They discuss various challenges faced by parents of such children and common misconceptions. Anouk emphasizes that these children often experience intense emotions that may not be understood by others. They also discuss strategies for dealing with meltdowns and finding solutions that work for each child. Anouk provides valuable insights into the world of parenting emotionally intense kids, including the importance of self-care for parents. She mentions her website and podcast, "Parenting the Intensity," as resources for parents looking for support and strategies. Overall, this interview sheds light on the challenges and needs of parents in this unique situation and offers a resource for support and understanding. 📣 Connect with Anouk: WEBSITE: PODCAST: Are you getting our newsletter? If not, subscribe at 👉 Support our podcast and help us share more incredible stories by making a donation at Buy Me A Coffee. Your contribution makes a significant impact in bringing these stories to light. Thank you for your support! Music Used: “LazyDay” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Artist:

Strategies and Insights for Parenting Emotionally Intense Kids
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Strategies and Insights for Parenting Emotionally Intense Kids

Show Notes:

In this interview, Tonya speaks with Anouk Brière-Godbout about parenting emotionally intense children, especially those with special needs. They discuss various challenges faced by parents of such children and common misconceptions. Anouk emphasizes that these children often experience intense emotions that may not be understood by others. They also discuss strategies for dealing with meltdowns and finding solutions that work for each child.

Anouk provides valuable insights into the world of parenting emotionally intense kids, including the importance of self-care for parents. She mentions her website and podcast, “Parenting the Intensity,” as resources for parents looking for support and strategies. Overall, this interview sheds light on the challenges and needs of parents in this unique situation and offers a resource for support and understanding.

📣 Connect with Anouk:

Are you getting our newsletter? If not, subscribe at

👉 Support our podcast and help us share more incredible stories by making a donation at Buy Me A Coffee. Your contribution makes a significant impact in bringing these stories to light. Thank you for your support!

Music Used:

“LazyDay” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



Meet Today’s Guest:

Anouk Brière-Godbout is a mom of 3 emotionally intense kids, who has a master’s in social work and has been supporting parents for 15 years (and that’s how long she’s been a mom!).

She now supports parents of emotionally intense kids for whom nothing in the “general parenting advice” seems to work so they feel confident in trying different things that fit their kids’ needs better.

You can find Anouk on her website at or follow her on her podcast at Parenting the Intensity.




Episode #80: Parenting Emotionally Intense Kids

(Recorded August 5, 2023)

Full Transcript of Interview:

Tonya: Anouk welcome to Water Prairie.

Anouk: Thank you for having me, Tonya.

This season we’ve been playing a game called Two Truths and a Lie, and each of my guests, I’ve been asking them to bring in three facts, and Anouk has agreed to play the game with us today.

So, um, so listeners, you’re going to listen to her three facts and try to decide which one is not true. And in the, if you’re watching on YouTube, you can write in the comments, or if you’re listening to the podcast, you can go to our Twitter feed or our Instagram feed and answer on the picture that you find there.

And a week after we release this, we’ll come back and give you the right answer. But um, but Anouk, what are your three facts that you, that you brought to share with us?

Yes. So, the first one is that I started my first business at 15 years old. The second one is that I worked nonstop for 20 hours. No bathroom break. Not anything. Not even a glass of water. And the third one is that I drove for five hours with a sprained ankle before, um, cruise control was a thing.

Wow! All right. So, listeners, you know what to do. Listen to the podcast first and then go in and leave your answer. You might get a little tip in here. You never know. Sometimes my guests give some clues as they’re answering our other questions.

Today we’re going to be talking about a topic we haven’t talked about before and it is parenting emotionally intense kids. And um, and so a lot of our listeners may have a child that has a diagnosis that this kind of makes sense why they seem to be a little bit tightly wound, and then others may just have a child that just is, um, pretty intense in their personality. So, um, so listeners, whether you are a parent of a child with a disability, you may relate to what we’re talking about today. Um, or know someone who, who would benefit from this. So, um, so if you’re listening to it and you know, someone else, please, please share this with them.

But, um, but to kind of get us connected and to know what we’re really talking about, Anouk, can you. Describe what an emotionally intense child might look like.

Um, I would say there’s many profiles that they can have. In general, they will react more intensely than the normal kid will be. And I’m using air quotes for your listeners.

Um, because normal is not a word that I really… Thinking exists, but, um, I would say like, yeah, it’s kids that will be more reactive in some ways. Um, I think we see mainly two profiles. One that is probably the child that you’re going to get phone call from daycare or school like every day because something went on at school.

And it’s a child that is like that everywhere. And the other profile that is less, um, obvious, maybe sometimes the one that is going to. Never. You’re never going to get a call from school. You might not even they might not even know who your kid is in some settings. Um, but at home, you’re getting that intensity much more.

Um, so it looks sometimes like crying. It can look like just a meltdown. It can look like reacting very intensely to things that look like nothing to us as parents. Um, and if you have the profile that is like, nobody else outside of your house sees. It’s hard because nobody understands. They think you have the perfect child, but at home, it’s another child, and it can be very challenging because you feel it’s your fault.

Um, and the child that is at home, at school, very challenging, then you’re often blamed by school or daycare or people outside because you’re not doing your job as parents. Um, like that’s how people make you feel, and that’s how we might feel to us parents of emotionally intense kids. Like, everything is just more, you know.

So I, I know, so you’ve, you’ve described, um, At least one of my children, even though my kids are older, but like I can’t remember having, um, at home with my son when he was young, especially feeling like we were always just going, going, going with, you know, just strong reactions to everything.

And it wasn’t always bad. It was just strong. We used to say that he, that he wore his emotions on his sleeve because you, you knew. No one doubted how he felt at the time, but then the teachers would tell me that, you know, no, he’s always said such a gentleman. He’s always respectful. And it’s, um, and so I had a counselor at the school once tell me that it actually was a good sign that he showed those emotions to us, but could control them outside the home because it meant that he felt safe, that he felt That, that was a safe place for him so that he could, and there were times that I wondered, do I really want to make it that safe anymore because, because parents, it gets hard whenever you ever happen to battle with that.

Definitely. And that’s, that’s very true. I think it’s something that’s very important to address is that sometimes the school can say that we don’t have that problem. So, it’s your problem. And right. Yeah, maybe, maybe. But the fact is that if kids explode at home, it’s because something is not going well, most probably at school or daycare.

So it’s not your, just your problem at home. But most of the time, since they don’t have to deal with it, they won’t help. Um, which is challenging when, when you, they have to deal with it, they want to collaborate with you more. Uh, so yeah, I, I’ve had. I have like three kids and I have two that fit one category and one that fits the other category. So I’ve experienced it all.

Well, you know, and I know before I had kids, and this is confession time here, I would judge other parents, you know, because you know, you’d be, I always think more like at, at, at the grocery store at. the out shopping at the checkout, because it seems like that’s always when, you know, they’ve been entertained when they were in the store and then they have to wait for mom to check out now.

And you’d have all the candies and everything, toys, everything, but they would, you know, then you’d see the child that’s like laying on the floor and they’re screaming. And of course, you know, my uneducated mind was, you know, we’ll. It’s that the parent must be doing something wrong. And so you’re right. I mean, I, I fully admit that I used to do that. And it’s, um, so now whenever I see the same situation, it’s like, you know, mom, can, can I do anything to help you because I’m on the other side of it. So I understand.

And sometimes just like a look of, I get what you’re going through. Yeah, exactly. A look of blame makes a huge difference.

You aren’t alone.

Yes. I get you, like, it’s okay.

So one of the things you, you mentioned, um, the candy and all that. So one of the things that we did with our kids that seemed to work with both of them, especially when they were little, when they were older, they’re easier to understand. Like logic. So you can kind of help them talk through some of those feelings.

But, um, but when they were little and they just didn’t understand anything, we would go, whatever story we went into, we would go and we would find a friend at the store. And the friend might be a book. It might be a stuffed animal. It might be a ball. It’d be something that they could hold on to that lived at the store.

And they got to spend their shopping time with that thing that they had to say goodbye because, because it lived at the store. And for some reason with the, both the kids, it actually worked and they would, they would go back and look for that stuff now, whatever it was. And um, and thankfully it was always there. It wasn’t something that was ever sold.

So that might have created another problem. I also love like I used, now I use my phone, but when my older ones were little, it, I didn’t add a phone that took pictures. Um, but I would always say, we’re going to put that on your Christmas list or on your birthday present list.

So, we are not like, we’re not ever going to get it. We will get it. Of course, we’re never going to get everything you ask for, because on one trip you might ask for like 15 things.

And you’re not going to remember what they were anyway.

My phone now is full of those photos though. She could remember because of that. I should delete them. But that’s another trick that sometimes happens to us, but it, happens like everywhere and it will happen at home. And to the point you were saying, like, kids will do it more to us. Um, I have one of my kid who, um, was doing it on purpose. Like she needed to cry. to let their emotions out at the end of the day when she started school and she, she needed to cry, but she was not able to, like, she was not able to let it go.

And so she would do things on purpose, knowing that I wouldn’t be mad. So when I would get mad, she would be able to cry, you know, and that was like, it was so obvious because she was doing things that she would never do otherwise. Like it was really that the point was that she would cry. I would make her cry.

That was, I was like. I’m not gonna. But you need to. How can we do that? So it can be very interesting to see that they, they need that release. It’s a release of something or it’s an overwhelm. It’s not like it. And I would say that’s the particularity of emotionally intense kids is that They don’t do it on purpose, and that’s the thing that we need to remember as parents.

They don’t do that because they’re bad kids. They do that because they cannot control it. And, and like giving consequences is just going to increase the reaction because they don’t control what’s going on. And so it, it’s often an overload of emotion, an overload of stimuli. Um, like lots of those kids.

Might get at some point a diagnosis of neurodivergence being neurodivergent. It can be kids with anxiety, with different mental health issues. Um, trauma, like it, it can be a lot of things. Right. Um, I, of course, hypersensitive kids will be like that. Um, kids who have, um, Um, speech delay because they cannot express themselves at the level of their cognitive functions, so it’s very frustrating.

So there’s lots of reasons why a child might have emotional, uh, intensity in their life. Um, and, and sometimes we just don’t know. And sometimes there’s many reasons, like it’s not one reason. There can be many things, which is, makes it very hard for the parent to, to find what’s the cause.

Right. Well, I’m thinking through, you know, when, you know, we, we always talk, talk, talk about kids going through their terrible twos, you know, and, and a lot of that’s happening with, as you said, with the language.

They mentally, they know what they want now, but they don’t have the tools yet to communicate. And so, so they get frustrated. Um, but then, so now you have a five-year-old who may be facing a similar challenge with, they may have the words, but they may not understand how to communicate that feeling yet of what they have.

And now they’re tired. They’ve been overstimulated that, you know, so you’re right. There’s so many different things that, that could be there that, you know, just thinking through. where the triggers are. And I want to clarify too that, um, when we’re talking about emotionally intense kids, we’re not talking about one child having a tantrum one day and then the rest of the time they’re just kind of relaxed and all.

But I think some of what we’re going to talk about here might could be applied in that situation. For the parent to be able to, to, to, to learn from it. But, um, but have empathy for everyone else whenever that happens to you. So, so, you know, this is one day and not day after day after day. But, um, but yeah, but it’s.

In general, it’s every day, many times a day. It’s kind of like skip some days. Um, but most of the time there will be some of it every day, probably more than once a day. Every kids will have a tantrum once in a while. That’s just.

Being kids and even like adults, adults, adults have a right, right. That’s, we just do them different ways, but .

Exactly. But sometimes it kind of looks the same. So, yeah.

So we, so we have these kids and you know, we have the feelings of people maybe passing judgment on us or you know, not understanding. So we may not always have that support that’s out there. What strategies can we use to help them as they’re trying to figure out what their feelings are? So that they can be healthy.

Um, I would say there’s two things and we might address one after the other but, um, In general, it’s regulation. So it’s really is emotional regulation. As I was saying, it’s not kids that do anything on purpose. They are losing it. Like, they don’t control what’s happening for whatever reason. And so it’s helping find, and I really call that detective work because it can be very hard to find.

It’s finding the triggers, the situation when it happens. And sometimes, like, Often there’s one, more than one thing, so it looks completely random. Like parents will say, I don’t know what it is because it’s all the time. When you really start to look closely, it’s not all the time, it’s not all the situation.

It’s specific moments, specific triggers, but it can appear like it’s all the time or that there’s randomness in it because sometimes often there’s more than one thing like a child might be hungry and there might be too much noise or they might have a like a fight with kid with a friend in school and you’re not even aware that there was a fight in school and then they will just it’s like, it’s like, Blow because you said no to a candy bar, but the cause is not the candy bar.

The cause is everything else going on and the candy bar is just like that little drop of oil on the fire, you know? So it just explode, but the candy bar is not even relevant. So trying to negotiate with the kids about the candy bar, it’s losing our time because the candy bar is not the real reason why the kid, like I was saying with my daughter, she was trying to make me mad so she would cry. I’m going to be like it’s not often.

It’s not that on purpose. It’s really, really the on purpose, but that’s what they’re doing. Like they’re just need the support and they’re explosive because they need the support. They need us to help them regulate. So it’s both detective work in. What’s triggering and what helps that kid calm down because not every child will be calm by the same things we were talking a bit before we went on like on the air about some kids need to be held and some needs to be left alone.

Um, sometime it can be a way to blanket and can be water. Uh, it can be like there’s so many can be music and phones. It can be a calm, dark room or. Or, or, like, it, it, for different kids, it’s different, um, different things that will help them calm down. So it’s finding both the cause and triggers, not necessarily a real cause, because, yes, the cause might help if you know, for example, that you have a kid with autism.

Like kids, neurodivergent kids are classic, uh, really emotional kids. If you know that, it might help you in your detective work to find the triggers, but you don’t need the diagnosis to find the triggers. You just need to, like, look at your kids and be very mindful and observant of that kid and what’s happening in their life.

And yes, you might not find them all because some might happen with somebody else and you just don’t know. But the more you can find, the more you’re aware of them, the more you’ll, it will help. But in the moment, giving consequences will just make things worse. So just really helping them to calm down and finding ways to help them regulate and not argue with them.

Like it’s pointless. You’re going to lose your time. It’s just going to be like, it’s going to escalate. And that brings me to the other things that is very important is. Staying calm, which, like, is not, not that easy. Like, it’s, we, we hear that all the time. You don’t yell at your kids and you stay calm. And like, that’s just bad advice because it’s very hard to do.

Like, you cannot just say to someone, stay calm. No, no. Just no. But that’s the fact. We need to stay calm because when they are super intense like that, it’s triggering for us. It’s like we, it, it even often trigger our fight or flight instinct because the noise can be very loud because they can be somewhat aggressive, sometimes really aggressive.

And so it’s, it’s hard to deal with. So we need to be super, super in control ourselves. And that’s very hard, especially when we are tired or when we are hungry, when we are overwhelmed. So that’s the other part. We need to, and that’s like the more dull answer of all, do self care. But lots of self regulating self care to be able to stay calm in those moments.

They’re, um, so you’re talking about the self care, like, so, you know, I’m thinking some of our parents have more than one child. You have three children. So. You’re, you were right, because I’m picturing that fight or flight, you’re going to escalate to that right away because now you’re trying to protect another child who may be in the room or witnessing that.

Um, so how can parents. Like, care for themselves, like how, how can they make sure that their own emotional well being is strong so that they’re not adding to the, the storm that’s happening there?

Yeah. And like, yeah, that’s totally like having even one kid is hard to do self care when you have a kid with special needs.

It’s extra hard to do self care when we have more than one kid with special needs. I’m not even going to say like, it’s almost impossible, but it’s still essential. And so I think that what I like to say is that we need to reframe what self care means. Self care is not, um, a weekend at the spa, like

I don’t even know what that is.

I have one plan with a friend at the end of the month is the first time in 15 years of motherhood. Wow. We’ll see if it really happens. I don’t know what it is either. I never went. So, so yeah, I mean, that’s not self care when you have kids, when you have multiple kids and when you have kids with special needs, it’s just not going to happen.

And so, and even seriously, like, even if you went once a month, it’s not going to be enough. Like, it’s not going to, like, it needs to be a constant thing. And that’s like self care that is self regulating is probably the thing I would go first. So like, yeah. Yoga, meditation, breath work. And even if breath work for you means taking one deep breath once an hour, like that’s better than nothing.

Yeah. Yeah. When, when your hour put, put an alarm clock on your, your phone and every hour it’s going to ring and you take a deep breath. Like even just that it’s self care. Okay.

Okay. Okay. So, so it doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be, it could be simple.

Yeah. And it’s just like, maybe you can drink like one warm sip of coffee.

And enjoying it. Like, this is self care. When you have kids, how many, I don’t know how many, like, it’s, it’s a joke in my house that if I’m looking for my tea, it’s probably in the, uh, the, uh, the microwave. Because I’m re eating my tea so many times. My kids, like, when I’m looking for my tea, my kids are like, uh, you look in the microwave.

Like, it’s, it’s, yeah. So, it, it can be just that. Just, like, one sip. Even if you can take your entire cup. What? Without creating it, like that’s the summum of self care.

I don’t think that’s possible. I mean, even, even at my level right now, I’ve never done that.

I don’t think I do, but unless I’m working, but I mean, those things, like just, it’s like appreciating what we are already doing just a tiny bit more.

And it’s a practice, but just a tiny bit, like just the deep breath. It just, okay, I’m here now in that moment. doing what I’m doing. This is self care, even if it’s just for one second or three seconds. And you, you, you practice it and it gets like it, you can get up to 10 seconds at some point. And if you do that, I don’t know how many hours you’re up during 24, 18.

Um, if you do that, like 18 times during your day, it’s 18 times, five seconds of self care you’ve done in your day. It’s better than none. You know? Right, right.

Well, I like that because a lot of times whenever I ask that question of people, I’m given like a, a more difficult process to follow. This is a start. And then maybe that, that one breath can become two as you’re going.

Maybe you can like do, you can start yoga by doing one sun salutation that takes about 15 seconds and could build up to three minutes or five minutes, and it’s better than none, you know, so it’s just like just a little bit. Just doing that is better than nothing, and it builds up on itself. At some point, it gets easier. And the other part is doing it with our kids. Like, I love.

I was going to ask about that.

Yeah, dance kitchen party. Like, that’s my favorite go to for healthcare with kids. Like, I, if I need an outfit and I need to, like, switch the energy, I’m going to put music and do a dance kitchen party.

Like, nobody’s watching because nobody’s watching and it’s my kids. Even my teens, they’re used to me dancing. Dancing and eat like right. Um, and so yeah, like that can be. And for me, uh, photography was one, like I do photography, but documentary style. So I will follow my kids and take pictures and be interested in what they’re doing while I take pictures.

The pictures are my hobby, but I take care of them at the same time. And I’m interested in what they’re doing. So, like, it’s finding things that we can do with them that doesn’t take us away from. Yes, but, for example, photography. Sometimes I’m going to do the dishes, they’re going to do something fun. I’m going to grab my camera, take two pictures.

It took me away from dishes for, like, a minute, and I’m going to go back. But also, they got one more minute of attention. I would not have gotten that, you know? So, it’s a win win.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like, I like that. So, are there, um, Like as we’re, as we’re trying to connect emotionally with our kids, because I think that’s, that’s a big piece of it as far as understanding what their emotion is or being able to, um, convey what our emotions are without yelling at them. How can parents strike a balance between providing structure and routine, but also allow room for their child’s expression emotionally?

Absolutely. That’s a hard one. Um, I would say really depends. Some kids really need routine so that it will be part of their triggers if there’s not enough routine. So if that’s what you’re unveiling when you look at your, your, your kids and observing your kids, I would say that it’s very important to try and put routines in place.

And if you as a parent yourself is not a routine person, like lots of ADHD or for example, um, it might be a struggle and that might be difficult for some parents to put routine in place. Um, and then at that, at those point, I would say there’s like You can have basic routines. You don’t have to go like sometimes we like routines need to be this, this, this and this at specific hours.

And some kids really need that, like really need that and crave that. And the more unstructured and disorganized they are, the more routine they would need. Um, other kids, it’s the opposite. Like, again, if you have an ADHD or as a kid, they might not need a routine. They might get bored very fast with a routine, and then it’s the opposite.

They, they need things to change up. And in the parenting world, routine is like that, that big thing that we absolutely need to put in place and that it’s good for everyone. And honestly, like, I don’t think any advice is good for everyone. Not every parent’s, not every kid, like, it’s just not a thing.

There’s no. Um, there’s no parenting advice that is good for every kind of family, and I really think it’s just tailoring those routine to the need of your family and the reality of your family. Like for example, I’m a family who like my husband’s always worked changing schedule. So some days is there for the dinnertime, some days he’s not, and we only know that a few days ahead.

So we need to change our routine every single day. And sometimes I’m busy and sometimes he’s busy. Like we don’t have parents that work nine to five and are always there at the same times. And quite frankly, that’s not the reality of lots of families. Like think about all the nurses, doctors, everybody who works in the, in the like military and health care system and lots of like a grocery store.

And like, there’s lots of people who don’t have that nine to five classical schedule and give, keeping a consistent schedule might not be realistic for lots of families, much more than we. are advertised, like the typical family for me doesn’t exist either and the typical schedule. So it’s finding a way to keep a routine somewhat in your life to the extent that your kids needs it.

Because yes, some kids really crave the routine. And then you’ll have as a parent to do the extra effort if it’s not natural. So that the kids can be regulated because it might be dysregulating for them. But if your kids don’t want a routine, then it can just be Before going to bed, we need to brush teeth, take a bath, and go to bed, actually, or read a book.

But the kid can choose what order they want it in, because they need variety to keep things interesting. And so their routine is just, we do those things, but not necessarily in the same order. As another kid, they would need to have bath time at… 730 and book 745 because they need that. So it all depends on the kids.

So the balance, I would say. It depends on each family. There’s no one right balance. I don’t know if that answers your question.

It does. It’s, you know, it’s something that as a family, we’ve always struggled with because I’m not a routine person. It’s um, I have 20 projects going on at any given time. I’m, you know, and there’s, it’s, it’s why I love podcasting because there’s enough projects just within this one that I can bounce from one to the other, but so, so it kind of, so that’s kind of how I was.

And, um, raising my kids, you know, we didn’t have dinner at the same time every night. We, but, but I, I, I like how you said that, you know, even just having the structure of knowing that they’re going to have a bath, they’re going to have their teeth brushed. They did have dinner at some point. See, I always, I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t have any type of structure and I think both of them needed more structure than I could give them.

But that, that’s very freeing just to hear that. to know that there was some type of structure because there was expectation that all these things would be done. And they, and then they were done, um, pretty much every night.

Yeah. And sometimes we skip the bath and sometimes we skip brushing. The teeth are not going to fall because you skip a night. Right. Right. They just want you to try that. Do you think that? But it’s not true.

When, when they were little, we did have, they would always climb, climb into our bed and we would read together and we would do devotions together. So that, that was always the last thing before they went to bed. So, so there was some type of routine. It just wasn’t like every day at six o’clock, this is what we’re doing. So, and I was doing it wrong. Yeah.

And for your family, like just the, that can be the routine. There’s something before bed that is predictable. That’s a routine. Yeah. Like, we’re told it should be all those, like, 15 steps, but not necessarily. That’s the routine. It, but some, sometimes the routine makes just the fighting less. Some kids need more expectation, more clear, so they fight less.

The other thing that I was thinking of when you were answering that one was, um, We’re talking about watching your child, knowing your child, would you recommend that a parent keep some, keep like a journal of what they’re starting to see and to look for those patterns that way?

Yeah, I would say this. I did it mostly with photos. So I, I’m guessing, I would say it depends on everyone, like what you prefer. Um, I was not a big journaler. I am now. I do journal much more, but I was not that much. I started really I started noting things down a little bit, but it became easier for me when I started make like doing photography.

I was always taking pictures, but when I started doing it like every day, it became much easier for me to, um, document those things and observe new things. But I would say it depends on every parent. That is really a parent thing. Like if you prefer pictures, go with pictures. If you prefer videos, go with video videos.

If you prefer noting things down, go on. But I would definitely recommend capturing it in some ways because our brains forget, like, so easily.

Well, because, because we end up having two or three days of peace and no, no outburst. And then we think, you know, well, you know, this, this, this is fine. And then it shows up again because it’s probably going to, but then we forget what the pattern was before. And, um, because the other thing I was thinking,

If you don’t note things down.

And I was thinking too that even if your child isn’t diagnosed with a reason for being on an IEP at school, um, I don’t know, is, is it the same in Canada as in the U. S.? We have the, the Individualized Education Plan. What, what would you have in Canada?

No, we don’t. It’s not that clear. Um, some kids will have like a quotation, like a number associated with them if they have special needs and then that will come with some type of support.

Um, but it’s not all kids that has special needs with that would be like for to have those. Like quotes, like those number associated, it needs to be, um, very specific criteria. So some kids will need, need some support, but they don’t like get that. Um, it’s not as clear, I would say. I’m not super familiar with the IEP.

I keep hearing about it, but I’m not really sure what it is. Okay. Um, but yeah, I would say it’s kind of difficult to like compare because it really. Like different and here we have like special education class that are like kids will be regrouped based on their needs But that would be for really I needs Right, like I we will never see for example an ADHD kid with that.

We will see autistic kids, but only if they have Like, uh, developmental delays in general, like so level two, three autism, maybe never level one. Some schools are starting to have some classroom for level one autism, but it’s really rare. Um, and so in general, those kids should receive services in their classrooms, but it will be, um, very I, I worked a lot with kids, with parents of kids with special needs, like different special needs, and when they were hesitant between like regular…

Regular classroom and specialized classroom because their kids would, um, qualify for specialized classroom, but the parents still ask their, like, it’s the parents ultimately that would decide. I would always recommend that they go to the specialized one just before, because there’s not enough service.

And so the, the ones that go in regular classroom that should get the service, they don’t in general. I would also say this is specific to my province. It’s really different. Like the school system is not the same here than it is in different province in Canada. So it really is. Yeah. And I’m not, like Quebec is very specific in their school system compared to the rest of Canada. And I’m not familiar with the rest of Canada’s school system that much.

Yeah. Because I’ve never asked that question to, to know, and I’ve, I’ve had several guests on who, who live in Canada. We just haven’t addressed that yet. Well, so, so what I was getting at is even if your child isn’t on an education plan, um, you still, you know, your child.

And so if they’re in public school by keeping this journal or some type of documentation to figure out what that is, I would, I would suggest having a conversation with your child’s teacher to help them understand maybe what some of the triggers are because then they could maybe help them. You know Recognize before, like if they know something’s going to happen in the way that class is transitioning and that it’s going to be more difficult for your child, then they would be more likely to maybe go over and, and, and stand near them during that time or, or have a buddy assigned to them so that they, or maybe have them go in earlier, come in late, if that, if that would make it easier for them.

Um, and so if you know what those things are, I mean, I, I don’t know many teachers who wouldn’t work with you if you’re trying to help make it a more peaceful situation for the teacher as well as for your child.

Yeah, for sure. And, but the thing is that sometimes the triggers are different in school and at home, um, so might help, might not.

And often the trick that works at home to help the kid, kids go down, don’t work at school because. It’s not one on one, like the possibility to be one on one is not the same, but it can still help to, to share if the teacher’s open. I sadly had experiences where the teacher’s not that open to the parents feedback.

And in high school, like I receive, because we have like an intervention plan that we, we call them, the kids can have that. Um, and I received one this year for my, one of my child and I was not consulted at all. Like, nobody talked to me before they did that, they just talked to my daughter. So I was like, okay, it might have been useful if I could have said something.

But that’s high school, it’s different than elementary school. I would have been, I would have talked to the teacher at least, um, not necessarily, normally the parents are supposed to be there when they do those plans, it doesn’t always happen. Okay.

Okay. Yeah, so there, there are some differences between, between the school systems in our countries too, which is part of this too, because the, um, because we do, because in the U.S. we have the, the, the IDEA policy and we also have the Americans with Disabilities Act, um, that, that protects some. And so, and those were huge changes that, that happened. But there’s still, I mean, even after 30 some years, it still needs to be improved. It’s just. It’s just. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Which is why we have these conversations and why, why we’re trying to, to help give our parents as many tools as we can.

Yeah. And, and let’s be honest, like school teachers are not trained to support, like, it. kids that have special needs. It’s not their fault. They’re just don’t have the training. They don’t have many kids with different needs in their class, and they don’t even necessarily have diagnosis. They don’t really know what’s going on, and they don’t have enough support from specialists to help them.

So it’s really not. I always like running like most of the time. It’s not on the teacher. It’s on the system. Yeah. Like, it really is. Like, even the teachers who don’t want to cooperate in general, it’s because they’re overwhelmed themselves. It’s not because they’re bad people. Yeah.

Yeah. No, I agree. Yeah.

They just add enough.

It’s, and unfortunately a lot of our parents that are listening have had, you know, the negative interactions with teachers and it’s good to remind them that it’s not, it’s nothing personal on them, but there is a lot, there’s a lot more in the picture than what we can see. And I, and I’ve, I’ve passed blame before, um, as well.

Um, sometimes it was warranted, sometimes it wasn’t. Yeah. I mean, there’s good human, but that’s for another conversation.

So, so talking about, um, about misunderstandings and all. With, we’ve talked about with our ADHD kids, with our kids with that are lacking, um, executive functioning with down syndrome. I’ve asked this question of a lot of difference that I wanted to ask you too. Are there any common misconceptions about emotionally intense kids and, um, and thinking to not just.

You know, Joey, who has no disabilities and no, no learning disabilities or anything, who also is emotionally intense, but for our kids who have special needs as well, with that, are there any misconceptions that, that you’ve come across that you’d like to, to talk about?

I would say in general, it’s that the kid is misbehaving. It’s a kid that is not, and the parents is not doing their job correctly. It’s the thing that we see the most. And that’s the parent. Look at themselves that way often and they might look at their kids that way often that the kids is it’s a misbehaving It’s not like I would say that’s the most common thing.

We expect that kid and often it’s intelligent kids So we expect those kids to be able to collaborate and they don’t and then like we were saying about the grocery store Example like people would judge a parent they will judge a kid for not being Well raised basically, um, and parents will just be overwhelmed and think that they are doing a bad job and they’re failing in their parenting.

And for that reason, it’s, um, it’s not taught about a lot. Like parents won’t share that with other parents because the, it’s kind of shameful because it looks like you’re not able to raise your kids basically. And if the kid has a diagnosis, it makes it a little bit more easy because you can explain that if the kids doesn’t have, might never, or just don’t have it yet, it really is kind of shameful because you feel it’s your fault and people makes you feel like it’s your fault. So, I would say that’s the misconception that we see the most.

What I’m thinking too that, um, even, even with, um, Like our preteen and our teenage girls, I know I’ve heard like not in school, but in like outside groups like clubs and stuff, the adults working with it saying, you know, well, she’s, she’s just over overly dramatic.

She’s trying to get extra attention. And I think that can be a misunderstanding to that. You know, this is someone who’s, who’s either not able to regulate those emotions or like you’re saying with your daughter, she’s, She’s trying to figure out how to do it and she can’t do it herself. So she needs that, that extra.

Yeah, or the classic, like, uh, the whiny kids who always wants a band aid or things like that. Because they’re too, like, sensitive kids. This is a classic too, like, most often in girls, but it will be seen in any, any kids. Um, and if it’s a boy, it’s going to be even worse because it’s like that misconstrued that boys don’t cry, still is very hard in our society.

So kids that whine a lot and is like crying at every little bump. But. It’s hard for them like they’re really hurt physically or it might be scary. Like some kids are just scared. And we tend to say, Oh, you just like you, you were scared. That’s nothing, but it’s not nothing. Being scared is a real thing.

It’s much worse than the earth that you hurt your knee, but there’s nothing you were more scared than the actual thing happening to your knee. But the scare you add was real and it, when you’re extremely sensitive, that scare is worse than the physical pain. Yeah.

So I was one of those kids, excuse me, I was one of those kids that was very shy. That’s why I was quiet. I didn’t, I didn’t talk a lot, especially outside the house, um, but I would cry easily. And so I would aggravate a lot of people because, because that’s, but I was that emotional one. And so I learned that you waited until later to show your emotion when you’re away from everyone.

I was that kid too. Yeah.

So I think, I mean, I think a lot of our parents that are listening can think back. to their childhood. You know, emotions are strong. We remember those emotions from when we were young. And it’s part of growing up. And I say this at different times. I picture our children as being these little bodies that are holding adult emotions inside of them.

And so they’re tightly packaged in there. And whenever they have emotions, they just kind of explode because it’s too much for that little body to hold. Um, and so I, I never liked to belittle an emotion because they are. They’re very strong. We, we do feel them. And like I said, we, we remember them for years.

Yes. And it’s often like we, we, uh, we dismiss those emotions. We dismiss as not important or like too much. Because we see, like, a child that will do, like, an entire drama because the plate is not the right color. It looks completely silly as a parent, but it’s a real struggle inside that child. This child is really living it.

And I know, like, the struggle of getting out the door. Like we were, we were talking about routine sometimes, it’s like finding the balance between the shoes. Yeah. Where’s the shoes are. And like, I have like the, the, the, the socks that are not the wrong socks or like that little seam on the socks.

Those are the wrong socks is what I’m talking about.

Yes. And so sometimes it can be a struggle, but also like often it’s thinking outside the box. Like for example, one of my child was always late. Because getting dressed in the morning was a nightmare. Um, we started dressing in the evening so she would sleep dressed. We’d save 25 minutes every morning that way. And it sounds weird.

I mean, you say to people… That’s smart though. Lots of people were like, they were looking at me like I was crazy when I was saying that. Or they looked at me like I was a genius. It’s different. If they had the same struggle as I had, they were looking at me as a genius. Most parents were like, your kids sleep like dress. I’m like, you know what? Leggings and a t-shirt.

She was clean. The clothes were clean.

And leggings and a t shirt or a PJ. What’s the difference? Right. Like, like, yeah, it’s the same. So like finding those solutions also can be very helpful when you have. and dance kids that can like make you lose lots of time in moments that you don’t have the time.

Right, right. And, and knowing also like those, those two to four or five years old wants to do everything by themselves, but it takes forever. If you know your kids absolutely need to tie their own shoe, even if they cannot, and it will end up in a meltdown, then plan 25 minutes to put on shoes. Don’t expect it to take two minutes because it’s not gonna, you know, that’s how planning and knowing what are the triggers will help you.

Like right now my youngest is on her tying my own belt in the car seat that she’s not quite able to and she will get really frustrated and sometimes it’s like seven minutes to tie the belt in the car. Right. Right. Right. It can be very aggravating if you’re late somewhere. And just like explaining, like sometimes like, today we don’t have the time. We will have time later. Might work, might not, but it can be helpful.

You can do it twice whenever I pick you up.

For example, like if you do half, I do half. We can do, once we’re home tonight, you can do it 10 times if you want. You can even take the car seat out of the car and you can do it as many times as you want.

You can sit at the dinner table with your car seat. I don’t care.

It’s like thinking outside the box to find a solution that might help. It’s very helpful in those moments. Yeah.

Well, this is, this has been very interesting. If our parents want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Um, I would say probably my website. It’s, uh, because I’m in Canada. Um, or I also have a podcast, which is Parenting the Intensity. Um, so it’s probably the best way. I have an Instagram account for the podcast also. So, it’s probably the best way to find me. Um, I also have like free resources for self-care, um, ways to find them, like to help find ways to do self-care the way I was talking earlier and, uh, a course, a free course also for like starting to parent your emotionally intense kids more easily, like the first steps, um, a bit like I was talking, like finding those triggers and things like that.

So, if, uh, if your listeners want more information, they can. You can get that on my website, both the podcast and the main website. Excellent.

Yeah. We’ll, we’ll, we’ll put the links for all of that in the show notes too, so that they can find that. Um, what other, so, so tell me just a little bit about what you’re doing on the podcast and on the website too. And if there’s any special projects that you have going on right now,

Um, the podcast is a new podcast that started early January, not July, sorry. So, it’s just started. Um, right now I’m doing silhouette episode talking about. Lots of things that we touched on today and different things too. Um, I’m planning to get guests, um, in the fall, um, probably, and hopefully I’m going to have you on.

I’d love to come.

Um, I will also, uh, like right now I’ll do mostly one on one support. Um, but I’m going to launch a membership, um, probably November. Uh, to support people in the group setting because I really love, uh, supporting people in a group. And I think a big part because that is kind of a shame.

People don’t talk about and don’t have other parents to relate to, but there’s lots of other parents out there that live, are living through that. So, I think it’s very important that we. We realize we’re not alone, so I want to do that in a group setting, and I’m planning a summit in, um, but not really, that is, I’m not, not quite sure of the format yet, probably a retreat or something online for parents of emotionally intense kids to both do self-care because it’s really important and also find ways to like clues in detective works.

Nice. Nice. Well, that, that all sounds really exciting. So, we’ll, again, if you’re listening, check, check the show notes or the description in the video, um, for her links and check out what she’s doing. Um, she, she does some great posts on Instagram and on her website as well.

So, so you want to plug into all that and be sure to listen to her podcast too. So, Anouk, thank you for spending some time today talking about this. I think it’s a great topic for us to bring in and to bring to light because as you say, a lot of parents aren’t feeling like they have support out there, they’re by themselves and there’s a whole, there’s a whole world of people out there that understand exactly what they’re going through.

So, thank you for joining me and for sharing this with us.

Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure to talk to you and get to know you better.


Tonya Wollum


Tonya Wollum is a disability advocate and host of the Water Prairie Chronicles podcast which connects special needs parents with resources to help them navigate parenting a child with a disability. She is the mother of 2 college-age children who have each grown up with a disability. That experience, along with a background in education, led her to create the Water Prairie Chronicles to help share what she has learned with parents of younger children to help them know how to advocate for their children.

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