Managing Melt Downs 101
Managing Melt Downs 101
I don’t care who you are – at some point it’s going to happen to you. I am talking about managing melt downs. Celebrities define their careers with them. However, for parents of special needs children melt downs, or drama, are part of daily life.
Recently, I shared with a friend about our struggles in managing our son’s melt downs. She laughed and said my tips apply to her college age children and husband too. There is always comfort in knowing you are not alone. My husband and I only have seven and a half years experience. However, we have cried, yelled, screamed, laughed and made enough mistakes to qualify for an audition on the reality show, “Super Nanny.” We are no experts but hope to share our experience in order to encourage others.
So here are the seven habits of barely functional parents…..errrrr – I mean seven ways to manage melt downs. It is dedicated to other parents of children with special needs:
1. Plan – set the expectation – plan – repeat – pray:
Early on we did visual schedules, role playing and flash cards to sequence the events of an outing. The iPhone even has apps for this preparation. Now we run through a verbal sequence. It’s not bullet proof but it does set the expectation, and allow you to identify load noises or other sensory road blocks. We do a lot of repeating. We also find it is often a way of “talking our son down” from the edge of melt down. Faith and deep breathing are a big part of this drill.
2. Don’t worry about other people:
I struggle with this one. We live in a small community, which by definition means; you know a lot of people. I can’t tell you how many times my kid was throwing a fit and I felt the eyes of a judging on-looker. It helps deflect the stares with a comment like, “I am open to your ideas. What would you suggest that I do?” I find this one sends them scurrying. It sort of confronts them and forces them to give an answer. Often I have been surprised by comments of compassion and encouragement.
3. Go in with an exit strategy:
My husband and I joke that the invasion of a foreign country requires less planning. We identify our roles; who will take the kid outside and who will remain to pay the check or grab the needed item. It is also important to claim victory when you have not needed to implement the evacuation plan.
4. Check your sanity at the door: (This supports number 3)
If you have a cart of groceries and your spouse or partner is not with you, leave the scene. Your sanity is worth more than enduring an escalating melt down. Remember, kids feed off of your furry. If you start to lose it, the situation will escalate and mutiny is just minutes away.
5. Always have a motivator – but don’t count on it:
We are big advocates for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) strategies. In basic terms your child has to demonstrate the appropriate behavior/task to get the reward. Some may call it bribery but there is more to it. It does work but part of your plan is to determine what you will do to get your child to comply when the motivator loses its zeal.
6. When all else fails – rely on humor!
When I think back about some of the things I have done, I have to laugh to myself. I am quite sure I will never earn the “Mother of the Year” award. Recently, I was desperate to get my child off the floor of a store. I was not going to give in. Knowing that my son is deathly afraid of parrots, I pointed to the ceiling and yelled, “Incoming! Incoming! Incoming! The parrot is coming for you!” My son jumped to his feet and yelled, “No Mom! Save me!” An onlooker appeared horrified. I smiled triumphantly and softly said, “Don’t judge me. It worked!”
7. Remember it is a journey not a race:
This last tip is one that another parent gave me when I felt down, beaten and completely defeated: “Every roadblock I’ve faced with our son has taught me something, even if it was very, very small. Those little, tiny pieces of information eventually all come together and it’s possible to see the bigger picture. The hard times can be very, very hard. It’s so hard to see that it will get better, especially when we start to doubt ourselves and wonder what it is we did to be where we are. You have to realize that you were chosen to be your child’s parent for a specific reason. What’ll happen next – you’ll see some HUGE leap that you never expected. You realize that the melt down was just a bump…a blip on the screen, and you’ll wonder why you got so upset about it. You WILL understand it and it’ll all start to make sense. Keep your faith…it’s the only thing that will get you through the really rough patches.”
The most important thing to remember is that melt downs are not about you. They are about your child trying to process what is happening to them. The world they are experiencing is not the same one you are absorbing. Developing coping skills for these special kids takes a lot of time, energy and planning. In short, your patience and persistence will help them prevail. Celebrate those victories and pass them on to another family. There is no greater gift than sharing peace and understanding.
Submitted by: Cynthia and Jim Falardeau – Proud Parents of J. Wyatt Falardeau
Illustration Courtesy of Jim Falardeau