As Michael has gotten older, many things have changed. What has especially become more difficult to navigate have been his meltdowns, or breakdowns when he has become overstimulated, stressed and angry. I realize he and we are dealing with many different challenges to how he views things, and this has affected me on figuring out how best to help him. OCD is still a killer for me. I am still trying to wrap my head around this aggravating, frustrating and stressful condition. I feel so angry sometimes that the compulsions Michael feels inclined to do take up so much energy and stress. With a new medication to handle it, the compulsions have gotten better, but the problem is still there, and when Michael becomes overwhelmed with other stimuli, we have a weekend like we just did with lots of behaviors, hyperactivity and aggression. It was not that Michael wanted to do this or that we wanted to bring it on. But sometimes as parents, we only see the triggers too late and then it all has to come out.
I am happy to say that though it was a rough weekend, we all learned what NOT to do. This is always my takeaway when Michael has a hard time or Dad and I do understanding him. If we cannot give ourselves a break and learn from the mistakes we make, how can we expect Michael to be less hard on himself? So, in lieu of our weekend, here are some tips I can offer to parents on how to help your child post meltdown:
- Sympathize with them: Remember, no child would choose to fail at regulating. If they are overreacting, it is because they do not have the mechanisms to control their anxiety in place. See what new tools you can give them.
- See what your triggers were: Your triggers? Yes, sometimes as parents we inadvertently make aggressions and anxieties worse or escalate them when we overreact initially or are stressed out. Of course, you are not to blame for your child losing control. They are. But you do need to remember to stay as calm as you can to give them a calm model. I am still learning that as a Mom.
- Share your successes and failures with self- regulation: I truly believe that sharing your own struggles with controlling stress in your life could help your child immensely. Tell them what worked or did not work for you in the past.
- Give them as much control as you can: Often times meltdowns happen because your child does not feel they have choices OR you have given them too many choices and not enough boundaries over what they can and cannot do. Have a balance and show them by modeling how you do this in your life.
- Check on your child’s overall health-sleep, food, medication and see if anything needs tweaking: Finally, seeing if something in their regime needs to be adjusted. That could be what is setting them off to have the meltdowns and making it harder to recover afterwards.
Exceptional Parents, how do you handle things post-meltdown with your Exceptional Child? As long as compassion and sympathy are present, as well as clear strategies to help them replace the negative behavior, you are well on your way to helping them learn to understand their emotions better and on you doing the same. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with Autism, ADHD, OCD and Type 1 Diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com
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