Where Is That Invisibility Cloak?

Based on my post of last week, many of you asked my thoughts on dealing with behavior issues, meltdowns in the public eye and when and how to inform other people of your child’s “invisible” special needs. Today I begin writing about those and other topics requested. Comments remain open on that post, and I will continue to check them for future reference.

You are in a store with the kids. As a mom on a budget and with limited time, you’re probably in a save-money-find-everything-you-need-in-one-stop mega store, and it happens. The meltdown.

Maybe it was the buzz of talking shoppers; or the hum of bright florescent lighting; or the stimuli of things and movement all around; or maybe he was hungry; or his sister looked at him. It really does not matter, the result is the same. Your child is in full kamikaze mode.

You stand there mortified, remembering that you spent what seemed an eternity getting your entire brood fed, dressed and out the door. Let’s not even discuss getting everyone into the vehicle and safely buckled into their seats.

You are not about to abandon a cart containing the necessities to get your family through one more day of life. But he melts, and you are there facing those people…the ones who are looking down their noses and judging your parenting skills based on this one moment. Whatever your child’s meltdown encompasses, the reality is…it is not pretty. And you see those people staring and shaking their heads.

The fact that your child is dealing with issues related to his special needs doesn’t matter here and now, because none of the people scrutinizing you have a clue. They don’t understand the sensory issues with which your child must deal or the fact he lacks impulse control due to brain damage. There you stand, feeling naked, exposed and mentally spent. You want to disappear.

What do you do?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends…

* Use distraction. Interrupt the behavior by pointing out something or suggesting a new activity.
* Gentle restraint may be necessary if the child is physically out of control, and sometimes humor can be helpful. Making a silly face or singing a song has worked for some parents.
* Keep calm. It’s hard to witness your child’s anger, but if you get angry, it’s likely to make things worse.
* If possible, stand nearby or hold your child until he calms down.
* Ignore minor tantrums; however, some tantrums cannot be ignored. If the child hits or kicks or in any way hurts anyone, throws things or yells or cries for a prolonged period of time, firm intervention is warranted.
* Remove the child from the situation.

It is important to remember that the child feels very out of control and is scared. They need the adult to stay calm.

A calm, soothing voice with a matter-of-fact attitude will go far to helping your child feel supported.

I agree with all of the above. That is not to say maintaining your calm, ignoring the child’s tantrum or getting the heck out of the store is easy…I’m just agreeing in theory.

At some level a parent does have to be aware that concern by other people might be an issue. In those instances when you have to physically, albeit appropriately, restrain your child, there is the possibility that a stranger might view the act as abusive. Try smiling at people and making a joke about the behavior…”don’t we all feel like this sometimes” or “want to borrow a kid”.

Plan ahead and take deep breaths. You know what situations are not a good fit for your child…avoid them if at all possible. Anticipate problems and have a plan. Above all, strive to remain calm. Chances are when you remain calm, you will be able to more quickly get a grip on the situation.

Now let me give you the advice which has served me well; remember what matters most…your child. How other people view you or your parenting skills is far less important than how you interact with your child.

Honestly, once you get over caring what other people think of you, parenting your child in the manner you know is best becomes much easier.

Frustrated parents, hang in there. Rumors are a Harry Potter-ish invisibility cloak is closer to reality than you might imagine. But move over…I am first in line.

Melody can be found writing here at 5MFSN every Tuesday in addition to hosting Special Exposure Wednesday. You will also find her at Slurping Life sharing photos and a few words from her special life.

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