Yesterday afternoon was one of those mother/son afternoons I wish I had a do over for. I had good intentions, but missed the mark on how off Michael was, and as a result, I did not see his anxiety cues until it was too late. It resulted in a complete meltdown I hadn’t seen in awhile. He was angry, so angry. He was so bent on fighting about everything, on defying me on everything, and the battles I decided not to pick ended up blowing up in both our faces. About forty-five minutes later when it was all over, Michael was relaxed, or at least seemed to be. But I was a bundle of nerves. I emailed the teacher asking her how his day had been and described the child that greeted me with swearing about another child with a cheeky smile on his face. Predictably, he’d done great at school. But I knew he must have had some anger and emotions he was working through and kept back from teachers. He’d saved it as usual for me. I knew I’d be in for a bit of ride at that point. Still, how could I have handled things better and not missed the other cues that things were off?
Here are 5 cues that I reminded myself of afterwards (and am sharing with parents here), so that they can better read their Exceptional Children’s cues that they are emotionally off:
- Strange smile, avoiding eye contact, or weird greeting to parent: When child greets you with a strange smile, is swearing, or avoiding eye-contact, that is a good first cue that something big is up. You will most likely see something major happen very shortly.
- Arguments over every little thing: The child is wound up and looking for an excuse to blow. They need to let out that emotion, but try as soon as possible to redirect them to a sensory corner to unwind; swing, ball, rocking chair, bin of beans or rocks, fidget toys or playdoh etc.
- They are hyper or super quiet, when either one is unusual for them: As a writer, we call this “foreshadowing”. Pay attention to anything that seems unusual for your child.
- Parent has to keep their cool no matter what: This is a toughie, particularly when the parent is tired and has had a busy stressful day. Try to do your best to keep it together, or take a short break to regroup. I joined into the anxiety and anger, (something I hadn’t done in a long time due to a stressful day), and it cost us both. It does not mean that a parent could always stop the meltdown/tantrum from happening, but with this technique they may defuse it a lot sooner. Try deep breathing, picturing a happy place, leaving the room if you can, though sometimes doing that can trigger worse things in your child so proceed with caution.
- Child is repeating something over and over: It could be a phrase, an idea, a tv show. This is sometimes a helpful way for Exceptional Children with autism to find comfort and security, or it could help send them into overdrive and overstimulation.
Exceptional Parents, do you beat yourself up for missing the cues and failing your child when they melt down? Do you resent them when they yell and scream at you, and are aggressive verbally and physically to you? It is hard not to have all these feelings, and is completely normal to lose it as a parent if this is happening on a regular basis. You are only human after all. We have all been there as parents. However, try and learn from these moments, so that you can become stronger as a parent and human being, and see that underneath an angry, aggressive, challenging child, is one who is scared of something or someone. They need you more than ever to guide them and be there for them, even if it’s just staying nearby when they cry or scream. As their advocates, we parents must become strong ourselves to teach them what to do better in the future. We must teach ourselves that too. Until next time.
Tired of anxiety controlling you and your child? Download my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS