Having a child with a behavioural disorder [read meltdowns] really ups the ante on the usual parenting stakes. I mean, its hard enough managing when you are presented with this gorgeous little bundle at the miracle which is birth…only to find that you realise that you have NO idea on what to do with your ‘pride and joy’ and wonder where the heck the handbook for your child is!!! To add in the “behavioural-issue” issue was enough to totally throw me off my game.
As babies, and toddlers the whole autism / ADHD / behavioural thing really didn’t rear its ugly head too much for me. You know the people around me kept telling me…”all babies do that” or “all boys do that” or “they’re just learning”, “its normal behaviour”
But its a fine line when all the other toddlers around start learning the social norms and mores and in the blink of a eye those same people are giving you ‘those’ looks, tutting (I hate people tutting me) and at times being outright rude about my child’s behaviour and/or my parenting. I want to scream at them “ITS NOT MY FAULT”!!!
You know, when I’m totally stressed to my eyeballs trying to manage a 3 year old having a full-on tantrum – trying to do my shopping and manage my baby it doesn’t help me for someone to tell me what a bad mother I am!!! Trust me – thats exactly how I feel at that moment!!
If you know where I’m coming from – you know where I’m coming from, right?!
Its a sad indictment of our society when we can’t help out someone who is clearly struggling – and instead, choose to kick her when she’s down. I say bring on the love!
So what can we, as parents, do to manage these times when your child is having a meltdown and someone makes a useless but hurtful comment? I have thought long and hard about this, and have come up with the following strategies:
- Ignore other people’s opinions (much, much harder to do than it sounds)
- Plan your outings as much as possible
- Know the places that cause the most angst – don’t go there without another adult to help, if possible
- tell your kids where you are going and what is happening (they always love to know what the ‘go’ is)
- make sure they have eaten before you go out, or take substantial snacks so there’s no blood sugar drops
- have a contingency plan if the proverbial hits the fan eg call Dad, or a favourite book or toy
- set boundaries and stick to them
- offer rewards for good behaviours eg marbles, stickers, game time or whatever he is into)
- Take a friend with you, or go when its quieter, or go without your child
- Watch for signs that your child is losing their ability to cope and have an escape plan ahead of time
- Know the triggers and what diffuses them
- Put a badge on the child that says “I’m autistic” or something explanatory (if appropriate)
- Don’t go out when your child is tired or stressed (we used to have a policy to stay at home in the afternoons)
- Make sure you have support – both ongoing and emergencies for when you aren’t coping yourself
- Try and stay as calm as you can in the moment – seeing you stressed out makes your child more stressed
- Give your child a cuddle, or give them space (whatever works for your child)
- Put an imaginary bubble around you and your children when you are out for your psychic protection
- Do role plays / social stories for any particularly difficult and reoccurring situations – good for you and your child
- Try not to engage in any discussion with people if they are negative – they clearly aren’t in the right space to help you
- stay at home if its a bad time of day (or if there’s a meltdown happening) – I just cancel stuff
- stay calm (this is one of the hardest methinks!)
- leave if they start melting down and can’t gain control (it’s not fair on them or others to stick it out)
and if all else fails, your child is melting down, and someone gives you the ‘look’ or an an un-needed comment….my favourite line is:
“My child has autism, what’s your excuse?”
Do you have any other ways to diffuse these horrible situations? Would love to hear them in the comments section below.