A Plan Of Calm
Emotional intensity can be a huge issue in families of complex kids. Sometimes it's the kids who get intense, and sometimes it's the parents! Most of us have learned (the hard way) that it can get pretty crazy, pretty fast. So what do you do? How do you handle things when emotions get intense?
1. Understand it's normal
We all get triggered. Some of us have shorter fuses than others, but when something triggers us, it's an automatic response to lash out in reaction. That's not an excuse for losing your cool, but a reminder that it's human, and something you'll want to begin to work on improving.
2. Practice calming yourself down
For most of us, it's really difficult to parent effectively when we are "over the deep end." So when you're not fully triggered, practice taking deep breaths and sipping water to sooth your emotions. When you do notice you're getting triggered, take some time to reclaim your brain so you can think clearly before you continue a conversation. Take some deep breaths, drink some water, take a time-out – make sure you're REALLY calm (not just pretending to be calm – Elaine and I call it "fake calm") before you engage. Commit to yourself that you won't continue until you've really calmed down.
3. Help your child calm down
If your child is melting down, switch your focus immediately from whatever caused the problem to helping your child calm down. Continuing to argue about schoolwork when your child is over the deep end isn't likely to help. Using a soothing voice and some empathy (I can tell this is hard for you…) can go a long way. Choose code words and routines to use when anyone starts to get upset or emotions get intense, as they can move a situation away from a potential crash. Help your child identify several options of things that help them calm down, so they have a 'list' to choose from in the heated moment.
4. Move to problem solving ONLY once everyone is calm
It may take a few minutes or a few hours, but it's important, whenever possible, to make sure that everyone is calm BEFORE you move forward. Partner with your child (as is age appropriate) to come up with a solution that will work for everyone. Add in an ounce of humor, motivation and encouragement to get things moving again.