June 25, 2014

What Do You Do When Your Child Has a Meltdown?

The Little Man had a meltdown this weekend. He hadn't had one since October, so when they happen, I am still caught a little off-guard. Even with my own experience with meltdowns, I am still a novice at dealing with other people melting down.

We work hard at preventing meltdowns in the first place, but I think the transition from school ending to going back to daycare for the summer has been too much for him. He's struggling with finding predictability in his day and his daycare worker is not the best with this either, unfortunately. She told me, "he's been asking, 'what's happening now? I don't know what's happening!'" but she didn't know what to say to him. I had to tell her she simply needs to tell him what's going on - "now it's snack time. Then we'll play before lunch. Then we wash our hands, then we have lunch...." It's so easy and obvious to me, I had forgotten that not everyone parents like I do. You don't have to a special needs parent to know to just answer a question when a child asks it! (That's my little rant of the day)

Anyway, I thought everything was fine, but it wasn't. I proposed going out for a short ride around the block on his tricycle. The work involved in getting a bike to move forward is a lot for the little guy. A mixture of dyspraxia and autism conspires against him. He has made great improvements, but still has a hard time. He started to get frustrated at it and I should have put a stop to it then, but I thought he would be ok. So we got to the corner of the street where I thought we should turn around and head back when he flipped out. He wanted to bike to his great-aunt's house (who loves a good 25km away!) since we had visited her recently. He then would not budge from the bike. I suggested walking back home and he didn't want to do that either. After trying to calm him down, he was just screaming outside on the corner of the street, so I took him off the bike and walked him back home, him screaming the whole way. We got home and he didn't want to go inside. I thought he would when we got to the door, but instead he bolted. He only bolts when angry, so obviously, he was pretty angry now. The problem is we live on a busy street and I am always scared he will just run into traffic. If I move towards him to try to coax him inside, he moves further away. So by now we are quite a distance apart, with him on the lawn close to the street and this terrifies me. So it becomes a game of cat and mouse, with me trying to catch him as he runs around screaming. People walk by, even a cop car drives by, but no one pays attention. (Looking back now, maybe I should have flagged down the cop car? The excitement of seeing a cop might have snapped him out of it for a moment).

I eventually catch him and I bring him up to the porch (which is enclosed) but I leave the door open and the house door closed (so that he doesn't feel like I am forcing him in) and I just hold him like a baby while he cries and lets it all out. I coo, and shush and pat his back like he's a baby in my arms and I bounce until he is soothed. That's my technique right now, but I won't be able to do that as he gets bigger. I'm hoping meltdowns won't be so bad as he gets older, but I'm probably crazy to think that. I tell him it's ok that he's frustrated and angry. When he's done crying, I let him play outside a bit to calm down. He runs his fingers through the sand in the driveway and starts to relax.

(For all those wondering where Dad was all this time, he went out to get food. I kind of hoped he would get back before we had to go inside, but that didn't happen. I'm just unlucky since I was also alone for the last meltdown!)

Eventually we go back inside and I get out his iPad so he can just chill out, but I see he is still teary, so I sit down with him to talk about what happened. I said, "do you want to talk about your feelings? You feel angry and frustrated, right?" He nods yes. "What other feelings do you have?"
"Silly!" he says.
"Silly? Who told you that? Did someone say you were being silly?" (Now I'm thinking someone put that idea in his head at school when he gets angry)
"Me silly!" and he points to himself.
"You think you're being silly? No. Not at all, love! You're not being silly. You're allowed to be angry. But what makes mama scared is when you run and I'm scared you'll go into the street. Then you could get a big owie and mama doesn't want anything bad to happen to you. Remember mama told you, you are my most precious treasure, so I don't want you to get hurt. But you're not silly, ok?"
He nods.

It's one thing to have a meltdown, but I don't want him to think he's a bad person for it!

So that's my long story. What do you to do to deal with your child's meltdowns? Any special techniques you use to de-escalate? Do you think the cops could have helped? 

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