We know that when our children lose it, really lose it, to the point where they have practically ZERO control over their emotions and are beyond distressed, that they need our support and understanding.
I find it relatively easy to stay calm and support our poppet during a huge meltdown when we’re at home and have the luxury of not needing to be anywhere important.
During those tantrums I’m usually able to say empathetic things, wait silently as necessary, respond patiently and to just be present.
It’s the meltdowns that happen in those not so ideal moments in which I can struggle and respond not so empathetically.
A few weeks back we were heading to an important genetics appointment, one we’d been waiting on for months regarding a diagnosis. Sure enough, our daughter had an epic meltdown.
I think it started with choosing shoes, she then didn’t want shoes, which was fine – I would just bring them in case she changed her mind. Then it was something else…and something else.
No matter how we responded, or didn’t insist upon whatever minor thing she was refusing, she seemed like she was creating an opportunity to cry, kick, scream and so on.
These are the times I struggle to maintain my own sense of calm.
Ordinarily, I would let it run it’s course and cancel our appointment, but this was a crucial appointment for a number of reasons. My husband and I managed to stay calm, spoke lovingly and reassured her while we put her in the car. It still felt hideously awful as she screamed and protested, but we were able to stay calm and let her know we understood and would look after her. She eventually calmed and was able to articulate what she had been worried about.
The other inopportune time for a big, all out, emotional meltdown is, of course, out in public. While we all have our ideals and would like to hold fast to those in both the ideal situations as well as the high-pressure, potentially embarrassing situations, that’s easier said than done.
So what do I try to do?
1) I try to take a moment to remind myself of the kind of mama I want to be for my child.
2) I consciously decide that the random strangers watching (and quite possibly judging) don’t matter, not in the slightest. I am in no way accountable to them and nor do I need to feel ok about their opinion of me or my child.
3) I remain calm and focus on just being there for my child.
So I will sit down with my screaming, thrashing daughter and patiently empathise with her and wait for her to calm. Although it doesn’t matter, those random strangers might just happen to see another way to respond to a child’s normal behaviour, albeit a big, uncomfortable expression of human emotion.
It’s so important to be our child’s calm and safe place during the storm.
They are freaked out enough by their big, scary emotions, they need us to remain calm. They need to know we are not afraid of their big feelings and that we believe in their ability to express and process those feelings. One day they WILL become able to identify and express their emotions and feel confident in their ability to navigate through them and feel calm again.