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By Joanne Giacomini
For The Suburban
How many of you parents out there have had a day you wish you take back from the second it started? Well, I had one of those days last week. It was a Sunday morning, and I was happy that I managed to crawl out of bed earlier than my son to get in some meditation before the activity packed day began. Meditation helps center and calm me, so I can face anything that is thrown my way. Well, usually. The problem was that even with my wonderful strategies to manage my stress, I was still wound up from my week. Afterwards when the storm was over, I thought to myself, how could I have handled this better? What tools/strategies did I not use? So today I want to share with you, as one parent of a special needs child to another, the 6 things to NOT DO when handling your child with autism’s meltdown.
6 Things to NOT DO When Handling Your Child with Autism’s Meltdown:
1) Do not become irritated when child asks you to smile/why you are not happy: This was the first thing that triggered me. The best response would have been to say I am feeling tired and need time to wake up. Also, be aware of your triggers with words/actions.
2) Do not attempt to handle said child on your own-get backup: My next mistake was not seeking out Dad sooner who was the calmer of the two parents that weekend.
3) Do not stay in the same room if you can, or if you must, go to your calm place in your head: This is hard. As long as the child is not in real danger, walking away to another room to clear your head can help you as a parent handle their rising anxiety and emotions better. Another option as a friend of mine did, go away in your head to your “happy place” to calm down.
4) Do not yell at your child when they are deliberately insulting or hitting you: Another toughie. This is direct provocation, a physical or psychological insult. We know that the best response is a calm unemotional “no hitting”, “you need to go calm down,” and ignoring, but as human beings, it is hard particularly when it is a family member whom you love.
5) Do not force child to do “calm down strategies” when they are in full-fledged meltdown: I started yelling at my son about his strategies in pure frustration when he was already in full meltdown mode out of control. That never works, even for adults. When he came out of his room crying and asked for a hug, that’s when it was a good time to remind him about strategies and I did. He apologized, and we walked up and down the hall way as I reminded him that one of his strategies when he feels pain in his stomach (an early anxiety warning sign), is to walk.
6) Do not neglect your own body’s signals that you are stressed: Another toughie. I was triggered as I was not watching my own body’s response properly. Had I been, I would have started breathing and calming my mind, asked for help, or did some walking myself to focus better on my son’s pain.
The good thing about an experience like this is the learning potential. Remember to go easy on yourself as a parent, and that above all, you are a human being and doing the best you can.
Joanne Giacomini is a writer, editor, speaker and parent coach at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance” www.exceptionalparenting.net. She helps special needs parents by offering them tips and tools for their parenting journey, so they and their children can live life happy, whole and in balance. She also blogs about how her son with autism is raising her at “Exceptional Mom/Exceptional Child” www.exceptionalmomchild.com. You can follow Joanne on Twitter @exceptmomchild.