It’s been a tough month for Michael and I. We’ve both been adjusting to him being back at school, in routine, with homework. At school, Michael is calm, listens and pushes down his emotions. When I’m boiling pasta for dinner, if I forget and leave the lid on the pot, the water boils over and makes a big mess. This is similar to what Michael does when he is upset, and doesn’t let his emotions out or find strategies to handle them. I have had a hard time finding his latest triggers, and the anxiety with doing things “right” has gotten worse. He is hard on himself when he doesn’t do things perfectly, things don’t go exactly as planned, and this is manifested by the “stimming lady” as he calls her, who tells him he has to do it over and over until he gets it right. With the help of the school psychologist, I am slowly seeing that the stimming lady is essentially a representation of all the adults in his life that make him perform and who Michael feels he is letting down when he does not understand something. Now that it is becoming more clear, I am trying to tell Michael how proud I am of him and give him ways to cope when he makes mistakes. I don’t want him beating himself up and making things worse.
Another thing I am learning is how to truly stay calm myself in the eyes of the storm, which in this case is Michael’s tantrum. They are being defused more easily when I do this, and the few times I have lost my own temper and his anger flared, I would quickly remove myself from the situation. After I thought about what led up to the outburst, what words I could have chosen differently, how much sleep he had etc, I always came back to the same thing. I need to stay calm myself. I need to keep my voice level. I need to not betray how angry I feel, how powerless I feel to see Michael losing control and suffering over handling difficult emotions. And why must I do this? Because I am learning when I am the calm, it reflects back to Michael eventually. He sees I trust him. He becomes calm. He learns he has control.
Exceptional Parents, when your children are upset how do you both comfort and let them find their place in the storm of a tantrum? Anxiety and anger management are just that. It is about being there for your child as co-pilot of the ship, but letting them, the captain, determine the course, for better or worse. That is the challenging part. But the worst thing to do is rush in and save them each time. They need to learn, as we do, that saving themselves will teach resilience, strength of character, and ability to trust their own instincts. . That is what they do for us after all, guide us in trusting our parental instincts. Until next time.
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