With children from hard places, there are many who are triggered into rages rather than the typical childhood and teen behaviors such as tantrums and sulking which are unpleasant to deal with but not generally dangerous. In talking with experts about best practices in dealing with extreme behaviors the key is always for the parent (the adult) to remain calm in the midst of the meltdown/rage/storm. It sounds so simple, so . . . logical.
BUT . . . HOW?
Of course, we should be the adult, the one in control when they have apparently lost it. But imagine you are in the midst of a tornado. You remain calm, mostly, and then it is over and you are able to assess the damage and realize no one is hurt badly and there is just a bit of material damage. Then the next day, another tornado. And another after a couple more days. You start wondering each day if there will be a tornado today and brace for the coming storm. Your nerves get a little shaky when the winds howl. You are still cleaning up (and healing) from the previous storms and wondering how much more you can take of this before something gives. At this point, remaining calm may be a stretch.
Prayer and Faith that God is in control and is working ALL things out for good is key for me.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
In addition, I’ve come up with this list to help me focus on remaining calm in the midst of the storms and realize that it will blow over. Perhaps it will help you as well.
C. A. L. M. M. O. M.
C. Self-CONTROL & CONFIDENCE (not reactive)
A. Look AWAY (not in their eyes) & ACKNOWLEDGE their frustration
L. LESS talk. (Wait ’til later)
M. MODEL better behavior & posture & calm with a MATTER-OF-FACT voice that communicates “everything is okay.
M. Get them MOVING with me (if do-able within safe limits) walking, jumping, dancing, etc.
O. OPT OUT if violent or verbally abusive (safety first)
M. ReMOVE myself, others, possible weapons/projectiles away for everyone’s safety.
For [C] I wanted to remind myself to show my own self-control and my own confidence so that it does not appear that I am out of control to my child or others. If they perceive that I am out of control in the least, or that they have “pushed my buttons” it validates the mistrust of my attachment disordered children.
For [A] I want to acknowledge their frustration if possible. I need to do this whether it seems to sink in or not. Look away means I do not need to push them to look me in the eye during their storm/rage/meltdown, which puts added pressure on them (though it comes across as highly disrespectful to me). I may need to sit/stand beside them instead of in front of them to avoid looking directly into their face. If they are able to hide their eyes as part of self-calming I want to recognize that that is okay for now.
[L] is a tough one for me because I want to talk them through it and get to the bottom of whatever is at the root of the disturbance. (Can you imagine trying to discuss with a tornado what caused such a disturbance?) Less talk is something that is difficult for me and may need to be zero talk to keep me from opening the floodgates, making matters worse.
[M] is similar to [C] above, in that I remind myself to be the adult and model better behavior to the child/teen. Not only do I want to avoid anything that could be perceived as a lack of confidence and self-control, but I want to overtly speak and act in a way that they may copy, such as speaking matter-of-factly with an un-shakeable, assured tone, one that assumes everything is or will be okay. Not dismissing their frustration or upset but not entering into the fray with them, either. This is a detached sort of stance that is new to me but may be more tolerable for my attachment disordered children.
[O] is Opt Out, and may pre-empt strategies that require the child or teen’s cooperation to a degree, like taking a walk. When they are violent or verbally abusive I need to be able to disengage in order to keep my calm and safety, and to model healthy boundaries. This is not a time to talk them through anything or try to reason with them.
The last [M] is another “Move” – – “Re-Move“ myself and others, along with items that could be used as weapons or projectiles for everyone’s safety. Not only in the midst of the storm, but in preparation for future storms items may need to be secured and a safety plan for other children in the home, as well as the one with the extreme behavior, parents and pets can be made. It may seem extreme and out of the ordinary to make a safety plan for when a child or teen is exhibiting extreme behavior, but it is a precaution that can be necessary for everyone’s safety.
I compiled the above tips for myself in preparing to deal with my own attachment disordered children. Your children certainly may have different types of behaviors and needs, requiring different strategies from you.
I have found that taking care of myself is key to being able to handle the stresses of an emotionally challenged child or teen who sometimes has extreme behaviors. Many things have helped, including the use of naturally calming essential oils that are available from Oils for Orphans. Feel free to contact me for more information on ways they might benefit you.