Monday, August 19, 2013

Planting the Seeds of Self Control

I've been counseled by my therapist to create situations where our son is able to acknowledge where he might be spiraling out of control and then correct his reactions to meet the spiral with confidence and acceptance.

Great plan...I love it! Come home and do if for me!

In all actuality, teaching my ADHD/anxious son how to control those uncontrollable emotions that he absolutely can not control is the hardest job I have ever had. I don't know exactly where to start...Do I approach him when he is just starting to lose it, using phrases such as, "Is this situation worth getting so upset over?" and "Do you think getting this upset with help anything?" This could work, or it could create a potential storm of denial and refusal- it is really a roll of the dice. I could talk to him using safe words while in the middle of a spiral, like "You are Ok" "I am here" "You need to calm down in your bedroom" but he doesn't really hear what I have to say and if he does, he ignore it because it is not what he wants to hear or do at that moment. My other option is to just ride it out, let him scream it out until he is exhausted and can come back to a place of calmness. Each choice has its merits and I can appreciate the skills he can learn from each of them.

However, usually these spirals happen on Fridays, (TGIF right??) when he is absolutely exhausted and has been pushed to the limit to be perfect during the days so his school friends only see his sweet side, not his emotional side. (CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THE AFTERNOON MELTDOWNS) These spirals are 10x the afternoon meltdown and take a good amount of time to decompress from. These are the nights where my husband and I just look at each other and hug. It is tough. There are no positives during these explosions, nothing where I can come back and say he learned something. These spirals are pure exhausted emotion, nothing else. Or, if there is something else, it is completely subconscious and I do not know what is that deep within him. Because of this, I am usually not sure what the best approach is. If it is just an afternoon meltdown, I can handle that, I know that and understand that- but this is on a much bigger scale. My fear is that this turns into a violent confrontation because he can throw his body around and resist with all of his weight.

If you were to look at him, interact with him, teach him, be friends with him, even grandparent him, you wouldn't see this. It is a hidden behavior, one that he only unleashes on my husband and myself. If I try to video him, he will throw shoes at me, throw himself at me, and try whatever he can to rip the phone out of my hands. If I take away all of his toys (which I have done now twice) he shows no interest or remorse. If I take away his outside time, he goes crazy and I know that I have found my currency for him. But at what cost? Should you continue to punish the venting of emotions? Does this require punishment?

I am not sure and this is the reason why I only punish the behaviors that can hurt other people and not for screaming into a pillow. I punish for throwing shoes but not for crying. I punish for trying to bite me but not for stomping his feet. I believe that those are the real skills I am in the middle of teaching my son. The skills on how to feel his emotions, but not vent them on someone else, the skill of getting angry and letting go of complete feelings of frustration but not becoming violent toward the person trying to calm him, the skill of yelling but not throwing things.

When it comes down to it, I know what he is feeling, I have had those same explosions and the feeling of being so out of control that it is frightening. My parents gave me a room where I could scream and yell and get out the physical aspects of a spiral without hurting anyone. I hope to provide him with the same. I loved my parents and loved everything they did for me and with me. I truly did not want to hurt them but I didn't have control over some of the stuff my brain was going through. I know it is the same for my son and I hope to guide him through these experiences with the knowledge that it REALLY will be him gauging his own actions and reactions eventually. I hope to also provide him with the outlets for controlling these emotions. Right now, I play softball and work out some frustration creating products for Teachers Pay Teachers but when I was in grade school- I was only in ballet and it was too soft, too easy, not physical enough for me to vent these emotions. I needed something more and once I became involved in softball, I saw a HUGE reduction in my reactions.

So- here is MY plan...J will play soccer in the fall, Tae Kwan Do in the winter, baseball the spring, and then take swimming during the summer. Every three months there will be a new sport for him to practice and perfect. I will still try to help him in the moment and give him ways to understand what is happening to him after it happens to help him recognize his triggers and reduce the severity and number of episodes he experiences. Hopefully using these two methods, we can help him realize how to prevent the spirals before they happen.
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