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To the Parents Still Recovering From Their Child’s Meltdown

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Here’s what happens in our house. Child has meltdown. Get child through meltdown. Child OK in the world, sometimes it’s like nothing even happened. Other times child is completely “off” the rest of the day. Me, on the other hand — I’m “off,” completely fried, feel like the world has ended and I’ve just ran a marathon.

Emotionally, it’s hard to recover as a parent. You’ve just witnessed an epic emotional, physical explosion in your child you love so dearly. It’s taken everything you have to help your child get through the meltdown, so it’s no wonder you feel exhausted afterward.

A big problem for me has been experiencing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from our daughter’s aggressive meltdowns. While working with a new psychologist for our daughter, I got faced with having to work through some of this. Trauma stays in the brain. It’s really a challenge to work on.

Our daughter’s meltdowns happen less frequently now, but because of the aggression when she’s in the middle of a meltdown, when she comes toward me to hug me, my nerves shoot through the sky, and I start to push her away because my brain is thinking she will bite me or hit me. So I’m working on retraining my brain.

As a parent, what do you do to get through the fog of a meltdown hangover?

These are my five tips to fight a “meltdown hangover”:

1. Make time for play. Engaging in silly, goofy play that connects you and your child can almost start a chain reaction for both of you. It’s a hard thing to initiate, but it’s worth the effort if your child has moved into the meltdown response of being OK. If your child is “off,” this is likely not the best move.

2. Chill together. Sometimes the best thing you can do is relax together. Snuggle up on the sofa with a good episode (or two or four). Grab some snacks and relax. (This is also a good time to sneak in a nap, mommas.)

3. Call for back-up and take a break. If you’re able to get a moment to yourself, it may be what you need. Sometimes after meltdowns, I just need to pull myself together, get a little self-care in and then I can move on with life.

4. Let go of the guilt. Oh, the guilt. This is tough for me, especially when our daughter bounces back quickly after a meltdown. Here’s what I’m going to say. Maybe you didn’t handle this meltdown perfectly, but you know what? There isn’t a meltdown manual out there. Did you make every effort to the best of your knowledge to help your child through their meltdown? OK, then quit the guilt and high-five yourself for your best effort. (Sounds harsh, right? But this is as much for me as it is for you, too.)

5. Shake it off. In the words of Taylor Swift, this is the best thing you can do. Meltdowns have a way of sticking around in my brain. Maybe it’s the trauma. Sometimes in order to recover, I literally have to push it out of my brain and pretend it didn’t happen. Shake it off and move on.

To the parents in a season of constant meltdowns: If your child has a meltdown from sunup to sundown, you’re going to need more than these five tips. You’re going to need a lot of naps, a lot of support and more patience than you know. And maybe even some coffee, chocolate and wine after bedtime (if you roll that way). For me, I needed the gym with childcare, and I would run and cry (seriously, wet, sloppy, running-mess cry), and no one was screaming at me for at least 20 minutes. It was heaven. I know from experience that it does get better — even if you don’t believe it will, it does. Hold on to that.

From someone who experienced several years of constant meltdowns, it does get better. Keep going, and don’t give up.

Follow this journey on Sensory Mom Secrets.

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Originally published: November 13, 2015
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