After helping my daughter overcome one of her panic episodes, I had reached a point where once I relaxed, I felt dizzy and like my knees were buckling—I was so drained. At the same time, I felt an enormous relief that peace was restored and proud that I had remained so calm through it all. Tough tantrums and anxiety at any age involves an all-consuming swirl of escalated emotion before, during, and after. If this is how worked up I felt on the inside, I could only imagine how she was feeling.
As a parent, nothing prepares you for the sensation of helping your child through an anxiety so overwhelming that you are brought to your knees in tears once she moves forward in peace and the storm clears. Only love, compassion, determination, iron will, and a fierce dose of patience can get you through.
That is why I feel the need to write a blog about my top 5 tactics to help an exhausted parent and sensitive child cope with those harder moments in life at any age, together. Learn how to find the strength and strategies to push passed fear and extreme meltdowns moments.
Emotion is a Journey
Being a sensitive or emotional person does not mean that your child is weak or shy. In fact, it means that the person feels so deeply that he/she may have a harder time processing the overbearing stimulus. While my daughter may occasionally begin her day with tears over the unknown of a typical school day, she will also be that person who is the first to volunteer and sing her heart out in front of the school and literally scale a mountain wall to the top, while making it all look easy. She is such an incredibly strong and brave young lady with a wildly successful future, even as she learns how to cope with change more easily.
A parent of a sensitive child is all too familiar with that special stare from friends and family members during a meltdown. That stare is critical, confused, sad, disappointed, and judgemental. I see it, and she does also. Her world can spiral in a craze of emotions that only necessitates a strong and loving hand to guide her through. Time will ease the emotion and settle the tornado of worry, it always does.
Perspective Fuels Power
Through the years, I have learned that happiness is a conscious choice and then a natural response. I have learned that the way you choose to translate moments in life is the way that they exist for you.
“Your perception is your reality.”
This is why I choose positivity. I choose sincerity. I choose gratitude and compassion. I have learned to translate pain into empowerment for myself and anyone I can reach—because I understand and feel, too.
Strategies for Success
I have experienced a myriad of trial-and-error scenarios to begin understanding which ones work most effectively—but it doesn’t mean it is the only way. Please review these practices as a working tool, not a rule. After all, you know your child best.
- Communication is Key: The best time to talk about emotions, growing feelings of worry and concern, are before the moment occurs. Help to settle fear or moments of helplessness with rational discussion. During a moment of panic, the child’s thoughts and comments may be irrational or extreme. Don’t get swept up in the storm and lose your footing. Continue calmly repeating phrases of encouragement, support, and love all the way through. Praise and reinforce positive choices—even if you don’t think she can hear you, she can.
- Advance Preparation: When a child shuts down and refuses everything in a tirade of emotion, you must be prepared with a plan, in advance, for optimal success in your effort. Allow yourself ample time to manage any situation, accounting for the unexpected as well. Minimize variables to ensure that your child is guided with the best support. Prepare siblings on how they can take a leadership role to help. Remember to praise, praise, praise! Be strong and supportive. Your child needs you and will succeed once the worry settles.
- Be the Pillar in Her Storm: Raising your voice never helps. The brain and thoughts of an anxious child feel like a hurricane of emotion. Adding fuel to the fire will only make it grow. Be peaceful and calm with every ounce of strength that you have. Be the unwavering pillar that your child can lean on and trust during a hard moment of chaos. Repeat phrases that will stick and reassure her during the day. “You can do this. I believe in you. We love you and want to see you happy. I’m here for you, and I am on your team. You are an amazing person with an incredible future. Let’s work through this together.” Practice calm breathing before, during, and after an episode.
- Loving but Firm: Reassurance is emotionally helpful, whether you see immediate results or not—but it won’t actually get your child dressed and on a bus to school. Always offer choices in a clear, simple, and direct manner to allow your child to feel in control—and always follow through on what you say. When your child makes the right choice, even if the journey to get there is challenging, keep it positive and always praise. Counting to complete the next task helps to provide clear choices and a deadline, always moving forward. Even through brief moments of calm, try and add levity to the tense situation with funny comments or personal experience.
- Review & Discuss: Once the dust settles and your child succeeds with a smile and peaceful disposition, always make sure to review the previous events. Talk about what happened. Review all of the areas of concern and make a plan to resolve or process them well. Empathize with your child’s feelings and offer personal anecdotes to enable the feeling of being understood. It may continue taking some time until the feelings of worry, dread, and chaos dissipate, but it will happen.
Remember, you are human… and you are not alone. Don’t suffer silently. We all know that parenting can be hard, but parenting also means taking care of yourself too. You can’t be successful if you run out of fuel to function or are on the brink of a breakdown yourself. Find important outlets to communicate your own feelings, get rest, and release stress doing something that you love.
Utilize these tools as they see fit in your life and the life of your child. Things will likely improve, but don’t hold back in reaching out to a professional who can offer more specific support, if needed. As long as you parent with love, compassion, and strength, you will all persevere.
P.S. Feel free to add your comments, experiences, tactics, and/or feedback. Let’s continue to empower each other and learn from our own life experiences. Always here for you, xo!