It struck me yesterday when our family was leaving from our apple picking outing yesterday and Michael had a fight with us, how much more difficult his anxiety and challenging behaviors are to reign in when my husband and I are both there. He didn’t even try to play us off each other, but being two different people with different reactions to stress, my husband and I don’t always agree how to handle such challenging behavior. My husband was also more tired than me, having done more of the physical rough housing with Michael,so his tolerance level was lower. Sometimes this scenario has been reversed, and I have had less patience. Regardless, the result is always the same. It intensifies Michael’s anger and then we have a full blown meltdown to extinguish. The good thing now is when either one of us sees that we are in over our head, we defer to the other person to take over, help Michael calm down and teach him self calming techniques for the future (not an easy feat, but one that is getting easier) and then regroup as a family and go over what we can do differently. I also remind Michael’s father that when the whole day goes well and there is meltdown at the end of the day, not to lose hope that Michael did not appreciate and enjoy his day. I sometimes forget this too, and Michael’s father reminds me.
This did get me thinking though about how parents of exceptional children can handle the meltdowns, the challenging behaviors and all the other anxiety ridden behaviors that go with stress. Obviously, being in a good place yourself is step 1, that is, remaining calm, zen, and ideally getting here without alcohol or junk food. It may work temporarily, but then there are two children crashing at the end of the day from meltdowns. 🙂 But all jokes aside, yesterday afternoon did show me how far my husband and I had come as Exceptional Parents in handling our emotions around Michael. I had a bad night the other night, when I had to remove myself, and even as I was thinking it, my husband told me to go off alone and calm down. He would take over. This is essential if the child is to learn healthy ways to calm down. Otherwise, you’ll have everyone fighting in no time, and the child will learn all your unhealthy reactions to anger. And trust me, they remember the unhealthy ones faster than the healthy ones. It can be a rude awakening for parents to hear their own words thrown back at them, but also eye opening. At least for me it was.
How do you handle anxiety, stress and meltdowns with your Exceptional Children when you and your partner are together? Do you defer to each other or sometimes start yelling? It’s ok if you’re in the latter. We’ve all been guilty of that at some point. The important thing is to own up to it, tell your child you made a mistake, and in future, make sure to teach healthy ways to calm down. That is what we are doing as a family now. Until next time.