Meltdowns are part of life for people with developmental delays. You know what it’s like that moment before the meltdown starts; you know the triggers, you see the frustration on your child’s face, you hear the noises they make before the storm begins. Then it happens – they yell, they cry, they throw things, they hurt themselves and others. You feel your anxiety levels amp up, because you know that you are the person who needs to help them through it, yet you feel as though there’s nothing you can do.
While this might not help every situation, we have developed a few ways in which you can bare through the mighty meltdowns in your family:
(1) Catch the triggers and prevent
Prevention is better than cure. Can you alter the environment to avoid typical frustrations? Can you catch the early signs (e.g. noises, mannerisms) and remove the child from the situation?
Go somewhere quiet – especially if you are in public. There’s nothing worse than the stares of strangers, judging you without knowing the full story. Find a quiet corner in the mall, beeline back to the car, find a vacant bedroom when you’re at somebody’s house. Just go somewhere quiet.
(3) Prioritize safety and damage control
This might be a good time for a “bear hug”. Hold your child close, to avoid them hurting themselves or others. What can you do to help your child stay safe, and not regret their actions later on?
(4) Sit and wait – then wait some more
Once your child seems to be calming down, don’t start talking. Wait far longer than you think they’ll need. Test the waters by asking something – if they start yelling again, they’re not ready. Wait again. Once your child can talk without losing control of their body, then move to the next phase.
When the coast is clear, explain the situation with empathy. Acknowledge how the child felt, while helping them to understand why they can’t have what they want.
(6) Fast forgiveness
Decide to forgive quickly. You will not feel like it, but make a rule that you won’t bring it up again. Leave it, and move on.
(7) Affectionate response
The first action of forgiveness, is to give your child something positive. A word of affirmation, a hug, read a story and cuddle, or share a meal together. As the adult, your job is to show unconditional love. You are not affirming “bad behavior” – remember, you dealt with the behavior – now you’re affirming the child.
Avoid asking your child to say, “Sorry,” to someone when you know it’s not a heartfelt apology. Instead, focus more on repairing the situation. If your child needs to make an apology of action to another person, have them “fix” what was broken. If it means physically fixing an item they broke, give them some tape and let them fix it. If it’s giving ice to someone who is hurt, show them to the freezer and have them wrap it in paper towel. Remember – the repair is not for you, or even the other party. You are showing your child how to make “right” the wrongs in their life. This is a powerful life lesson.