Manage Your Child’s Intense Emotions

Last week I attended a parent support group at Ben’s therapeutic school.

The session was titled “Managing Your Child’s Intense Emotions.”

It went over a lot of useful information, none of it new to me. Sadly even though I already knew all the material, I donn’t apply it as often as I should.

Among other things, they spent a good portion of the time talking about ways to calm your child. To watch carefully for any tells that your child might be getting agitated. Try to calm before the incident occurs and failing that, after the incident has happened, how to use it as a teachable moment. Helping your child to assign the correct emotions to the problem, and find ways together to solve the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.

The parenting books I read with my first child that worked quite effectively used things like time outs as punishment. They never made suggestions like sharing problem solving with your child to actively invest them, teaching emotional language to help with self expression, or finding calming activities to empower them to avoid tantrums on their own. I think I once read an entire book that explained all I had to do was count to three then punish. These books got 5 stars on Amazon! They were the popular ones! Commonly seen as normal and acceptable parenting!

And even sadder was the realization that your behavior has to be so out of the norm, so different than your peers, for you to be given this sort of humanity. To be treated like a person instead of a pavlovian dog. These techniques were better for every child, not just the ones labeled ‘trouble’.

I went walked into Ben’s diagnosis thinking he had to change but what it’s made me realize (like all good therapy does) is that I’m the one that needs to change.

And not just for him, but for all my kids.

Afterwards we had a question and answer period which was extremely cathartic and satisfying. Every parent in that room is going though a similar hardship, such as having to bear the heartbreak of watching our kids shunned from traditional childhood activities like sports or having a best friend. How we still fight for any modicum of normalcy. How difficult it is to handle the extra attention our special children consume, leaving the other children in the house feeling shorthanded. It was nice to feel you aren’t out there alone, there are other facing the same problems as you.

I’m refreshed and renewed and ready to start applying this course to my every day life! Bring on the calm! Bring on the empathy! Bring on the positive praise!

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