The Art of Calm During a Meltdown

When someone we love immensely hurts, we hurt. It is the way most people are biologically engineered. So when your child or loved one experiences a meltdown it can be difficult and even seem impossible to avoid extreme internal or external anxiety in response. The anxiety comes from one place: the unknown. The unknown of how long this will go? How far will the behaviours of this one go? The unknown of what ‘unpleased eyes’ think of you as a parent or thinks of your child (who cares by the way)? The unknown about your child or loved ones safety? With all of these questions we often internally recite the answers to be worst-case scenario in a bid to prepare ourselves to survive and get through it. So the art of refining our reaction comes from two areas: experience (yes as in there will be more and this will happen again) and guidance/support.

I often say to parents to prepare a script to remove unserviceable emotional input when events are difficult or emotionally charged. I usually say this when in discussion about a family member questioning a diagnosis but the same rule applies here. Prepare a script and a suggestion I use ALL the time and comes from Esther Hicks is the powerful phrase “hold on it will be over soon”. Sometimes admission that you are powerless to change your child’s experience in that very moment is liberating. Say to yourself “There is NOTHING I can do right now except sit and hold my child (as difficult as that may be) and remind them of my love (be that through deep pressure, words or any other means that calms and comforts them etc.). Nothing. It is a powerful insight to realise that you cannot change what ‘unpleased eyes’ thinks of you or what opinionated “I could do better” mother approaches you with. All you can do is stay in your bubble of calm and lovingly respond to all of these thoughts and people with the acceptance that you are completely independent of their opinion of you. What they think of you as a Mother or think of your child is completely irrelevant and you are in no position to influence other’s in grained judgements, particularly when trying to express your art of calm amongst the chaos.

This phrase “hold on it will be over soon” gives your mind a chance to focus on something else momentarily and takes you away from what would seem dire to everyone around you (maybe even including yourself). In this moment, that moment where you have somehow pushed this thought ahead of the chaos and disarray in front of you- Breathe! Breathe again; this decreases your heart rate and will aid in this art of calm. Once you are as calm as you can be, start to take single step actions e.g. we need to get up off the floor so we will use the art of your intuition to know when your child is ready for that transition. Specific behavioural strategies are discussed in more detail within our e-book titled “When your list goes out of the window” (coming soon). For now the point of this blog was to touch on the topic of parental emotional experiences. If you find yourself completely matching your child’s state of arousal just look for relief and nothing more; you are not going to be able to go from panic to calm in 10 seconds. Look for relief in the small moments e.g. a longer pause between the hysterical cries. Look for relief in the helpful and kind person asking if they could help you in any way (hopefully they have chosen their timing well). Wherever it comes from those moments of relief are rungs on the ladder to calm.

I have seen countless (and incredible) mothers, fathers and teachers master this art. When I tell them what an inspiration they are, their responses are always the same: a modest smile, a brief statement of thank you or they will comment it is years of experience.

It is not be that this will occur every week, everyday or every hour but it might. But when and if it does there will be something more familiar the next time; some strange comfort that you have survived this before. It is when the unknown is counteracted by the knowledge that “it will be over soon”; just hold on and breathe.

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