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When Someone Said 'I Felt Helpless' About My Son's Meltdown

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Today I was asked a question:

“What could I have done yesterday to help? I felt helpless.”

I cried when reading it; not completely sure why, but I did.

I was asked this question because of a meltdown that happened. Yesterday was a tough day, We were visiting family and the visit didn’t end well. I left frazzled, upset, overwhelmed and pissed. Upset because I am sure I hurt a few feelings as I walked out the door in the middle of dinner, overwhelmed thinking about everyone’s feelings but my child’s and pissed because it is now one more place we can’t go.

I do not expect you to put locks on all the cupboards, chains on all the doors you don’t want him to get into, fence in your yard so in case he bolts he is at least not able to go into the road or a neighbor’s pool, put away all valuables so he can’t break them, make sure anything that he could fixate on that could cause a meltdown is out of sight. I don’t expect my friends or family to take the same steps that we do in our home to keep my son, Beast, safe. That would be a ridiculous request and expectation.

I try to educate and talk about what our daily life is like so people might get a minor inkling of what our day is like. Not to say, “Hey, my life is so much harder than yours,” but for understanding and acceptance. The issue is that no one seems to “understand” it until they see the meltdown and are in the room, feeling the gut-wrenching pain, seeing the panic and frustration on his face.

All the little things added up yesterday. I saw everything that could be an issue in the house. I knew a meltdown was coming, I just wasn’t sure when or what it would be about.

My answer to the question is that there isn’t anything that I would ask anyone to do when he is that upset. I don’t want him getting hurt. I can handle being pushed, hit, having my hair pulled and being screamed at. I don’t want help restraining him, I don’t want anyone else trying to talk him down. It only makes it worse.

What I do expect, though, is understanding and patience if you want us to come to you.

Understanding that he is going to get into probably almost everything that he isn’t supposed to multiple times, that I am not going to sit for even a minute, that I am to be a little snappy, distant and have a deer-in-the-headlights look because I am waiting for it.

I want you to understand that yelling at him in this moment only makes it worse. He doesn’t hear your words; he only feels the emotion.

I ask for you to have the patience to give him space, not be in his face, to let him come to you when he is ready to be social. I ask you to wait when he gets stuck on something and he is frustrated that he can’t communicate his exact needs and starts pushing and shoving, swiping things off of shelves, emptying the freezer because he just wants you to hear him.

That is how you can help him. I don’t need help in that moment; he needs understanding.

A version of this post originally appeared on Finders Seekers.

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Originally published: April 18, 2015
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