Yesterday afternoon was one I would call a mixed bag. It started out with Michael a little on the hyper side. He was very excited to call a friend before we were destined to run out to buy something for him not urgent, but something that we had discussed may help him. Due I think to his excitement in recounting his day at snack time (took a long time) combined with rushing to make the store, he had difficulty dialing his friend’s number. He did not want to ask for help feeling this would make him seem a baby. As I tried to calmly intervene, I quickly got carried away with his stress and become stressed myself to try and finish the chore I had started while he made his phone call, so we could get out the door and home in time for dinner. In the midst of him actually having what looked like an anxiety attack and him fighting me to help him dial, I realized, I was riding my child’s emotional roller coaster. Right away, I took a deep breath, told Michael I needed a moment to calm down myself, and then we would make the call together. It worked out in the end, but then afterwards it was too late to go to the store. Michael was very distraught and started to cry. He asked me to hug him. He tried using his strategy cards, but they did not do the full job. He eventually calmed down, and I realized what we had both done wrong. Number 1, he had changed the schedule. We have been using a regular schedule to keep anxiety at bay. I needed to make it clear that we keep the schedule as we decided. Number 2, as soon as he started escalating direct him to his calm cards and cool down corner. I waited and it served to make him more stressed. Number 3, see what he was really communicating- tiredness, excitement/nervousness about school ending, and monitor him that much more closely. But above all, be the calm in my child’s storm. Sometimes as parents we forget that.
We had a pretty intense conversation afterwards about planning things out, and then Michael being Michael, wanted to have a heart to heart about God, Heaven, Life and Death and about why people die. I suspect he was grateful that I had hugged and reassured him he was not a baby for needing help and that we all get upset and lose our temper sometimes, including Moms and Dads. It was quite an hour long conversation we had before dinner. The rest of the night went very well. So how do you NOT ride your child’s emotional roller coaster. These are the things I’ll remember the next time my child starts to get stressed:
- Stay Calm: I know, obvious right? But it is hard at first to see how we are building with them, particularly if you have a close bond with your child. So first be aware of your own breathing, thoughts and body. Take a deep breath and remind yourself to stay calm either with a mantra: “I am peace.” You can also ask for help from God if you are religious, “Lord, give me patience.” You can use humor if you’ve already started getting upset, “Don’t have a Mommy tantrum.” It’s basically whatever works best for you to stay calm
- See The Roller Coaster Is Not Your Child: Make sure you are seeing how your child is caught in his/her emotions and it is NOT them. Sometimes as parents we see our kids misbehaving and screaming and don’t see that they have lost control and need our help to find their center. Step back so you can help.
- Set Boundaries For Behavior: This is one we all have challenges with. It’s important your child knows you are in charge for their safety and peace of mind. Kids push against loose boundaries as much as tight ones. Be firm and loving but remind your child you make the rules and they need to follow them.
- Make Sure You Are In Touch With Your Triggers: Our children will learn our triggers and use them, each and every time. It’s almost funny how they know what sets us off. Don’t let yourself be triggered, and if it does happen, step away and go somewhere quiet to collect yourself. You can’t do a good job as a parent until then.
- Establish Good Health Habits for The Whole Family To Communicate: Have a cool down corner for each member of the family where they can go to unwind, de-stress and calm down. Model doing that for your child. Also, talk about feelings in simple terms. Don’t talk too much. Keep the concepts simple. Too much talking causes more anxiety in exceptional kids. I know that personally. 🙂
Exceptional Parents, when was the last time you rode your child’s roller coaster of emotions and what do you use to not escalate yourself? Remember, as long as your tools include staying calm and present focused you and your child will be fine. We can all learn from our mistakes and grow and become stronger people from our trials. You are a great parent and your child loves you as you love them. Until next time.