Yesterday was Father’s Day, and by all counts it was a MUCH better day than my Mother’s Day was. We had a beautiful morning with a breakfast out at a favorite restaurant and fun in the park. As Michael himself promised, “I will make it a good day Mommy and Daddy. I have better anger strategies now.” He did. We only had to cancel one activity in the afternoon due to Michael not listening and getting aggressive. We did the whole cool room for me to pull himself together. It did not go well at first, though at least he went willingly. That was a first. It’s draining for him and us to listen to him screaming in there, cursing, yelling and not using it to actually calm down until much much later. But the lesson will get learned we are sure. What is also hard, is for Dad and I to keep our cool while he is raging, banging and breaking things. That is something though that is key to his eventual calming down- us staying calm, or as calm as we can inside and out. This is not easy. We are learning together and supporting each other while we do it. After all, Michael is in his cool down or calm down room because he was aggressive so we want to model us being calm, gentle and loving yet firm so he learns he can be angry, but proceed calmly to handle his emotions. Here are 5 things we have learned to do to start modeling that for Michael:
- Speak Less and Quietly: This is hard, but I have been shown how to talk less and point. This shows Michael we mean business and saves energy for riding out the literal storm.
- Take Several Deep Breaths and Count: This helps me or Dad when we are monitoring that he stays in his room and have the timer on. He gets the timer ONLY if he does not choose to go on his own to calm down after an episode.
- Remember It Will Not Last Forever: It is hard when a parent finds themselves in the middle of YET another meltdown. It is scary too to hear your child losing control. It will not last forever though. Some will be longer than others. They will learn eventually what they need to do. Hang in there.
- Don’t Blame Yourself: If only I had done this. I am guilty of blaming myself in the past for ALL Michael’s problems. Yes, parents sometimes miss cues, but your child’s actions and choices are their own as are yours. Give them the responsibility for their actions and forgive yourself. You are doing your best.
- Remember Their Developmental Age VS Chronological Age: Michael is 10 years old, but developmentally MUCH younger in many ways. This is hard for me and Dad to say, even now. Hearing professionals say he is cognitively impaired breaks my heart. However, it is imperative I remind myself of this, so when he melts down I see it as a developmental stage he didn’t go through as a baby. It is healthy he is doing it now and catching up. We need to remember as parents they are just children and treat them as such.
Exceptional Parents, what tools do you use to keep yourself together when your child is falling apart? Remember, they will appreciate how your calm helped them regain theirs. They will see how you are using strategies to stay in control, and with time and practice, learn to do that themselves. Be patient. Be consistent. And after they are happy and have apologized, really give them a chance to start over with you. Everyone deserves a fresh start to learn and move forward to better times, you and your child. Until next time.