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Today’s Guest Post….
As a mother of 2 special needs children – our middle daughter has ADHD and severe anxiety, and our youngest son has ADHD, anxiety and is on the Autism Spectrum – life is usually never dull in our home. In fact, there are days I pray it will be boring and quiet in our house, just for a bit of a break. But alas, that is not the norm.
As a life and family coach to families who are raising special needs children I offer encouragement, support, and also give many ideas and tips to families for things like how to manage anxiety and anger in children, how to establish daily routines for ADHD families, and also how parents can nourish their own marriage or relationships with their other children when parenting a special needs child.
While all of these things are very important, there are 2 very simple, but definitely not easy, strategies I use that work almost every single time.
Sit and Wait
One of the best things I can do for my children, when they’re in the middle of a meltdown or on the verge of an anxiety attack is to sit and wait. Sit right next to them, not saying one word, ensuring they’re not in danger of harming themselves or someone else. Simply being there and allowing my presence to help calm them or soothe their mind as they’re going through a difficult time emotionally and mentally truly helps them.
My kids need to know that I am there for them, even if they’re spewing all sorts of verbal vomit, as I like to call it, at me or the rest of the family. Trust me, I know it’s hard. I do NOT like being kicked and hit and told my child hates me and that I’m stupid. More importantly, my child needs to know when their meltdown is over that I loved them enough to stay with them and endure their nastiness.
When the storm has passed, I don’t try to talk to my child and figure out what could have been done to prevent the meltdown from happening. That can come later. I simply hold them, tell them that I love them. I do have my children clean up their room if they’ve thrown things and I do have them apologize if they called me names or hit or kicked me. But I let them know that no matter what they do to me or say to me, they will find a safe place here in their own home, with their parent.
There is an exception to this rule. My husband and I will take turns if things are seriously out of control and the meltdown or anxiety attack lasts a few hours or more. There is only so much one person can take and you don’t have to be the one to sit with them the entire time. If you’re not married, find a friend or relative that your child trusts, that you can call on when you’re in need of some help desperately. When my husband is working a lot, I’ll often call my mom and she’ll come over. She’s helped me a lot with both of my special needs children.
I have heard this time and time again from other special needs parents. I know it works. I know I can handle a tense situation best when I’m calm. Believe me when I say this has to be the hardest thing I have ever done as a parent. My Type A personality wants to lecture my kids right then and there telling them what they should and should not be doing. I KNOW this does not work because I’ve tried it hundreds of times. In fact it has the opposite effect, causing the meltdown to become more violent or to increase in intensity.
When I went through counseling for my depression years ago, I remember what my counselor told my husband about how to speak to me when in the middle of a depressive episode. He said, “You cannot be rational with an irrational person.” Did you catch that? If my child is in the middle of a meltdown or an anxiety attack, there are no amount of words that are going to rationalize them out of it. They are completely irrational at that point and the best thing I can do for them is remain calm.
These two strategies may seem simple but they work wonders. Sitting, waiting, and remaining calm will provide your children with the security of knowing they’re parents love them no matter how terrible, ugly or hateful they treat you.
I know there are so many other strategies that work when parenting special needs children, but in my experience these 2 tips have been the ones to work best in our home.
What strategies do you use to help your child through a meltdown or emotional storm?
For more inspiration and encouragement visit Living With Real Joy.