Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Anatomy of a Meltdown

We had a doozy of a meltdown today.  Very public, at church.  I'll break it down for you.

THE TRIGGER - this is it.  The THING.  This starts the meltdown.  This morning is was lemonade.  Or, more precisely, the absence of lemonade.  Our church has a hospitality area with coffee and donuts.  In the winter months they also have hot chocolate, in the summer, lemonade.  This morning, B wanted lemonade.  We've been in Florida this past week and it was warm there. So, in B's mind, it's time for lemonade.

At this point, actually at all points of the meltdown, this looks like a temper tantrum.  He's screaming, "I want lemonade" and crying.

It's best to remove him from the situation, to try to switch his gears.  So we go into the sanctuary.  I got a short reprieve at the this point to talk to a couple of friends because Ryan took him to the bathroom.

We met up in the sanctuary and B is still agitated.  He doesn't want to sit down with us.  An usher approaches us at this time (which is usually not advisable) to offer some lavender essential oil.  I rub it on my hands and try to grab B to let him breathe it in.  He's not having it.  He still protesting loudly saying he wants to be alone.  At his age, we do not let him be alone mid-meltdown for safety reasons.

I keep calmly asking him if I can try to help him.  He finally lets me up please him (pick him up) and we go to the far corner of the sanctuary by the exit doors.  He lays on his back, I sit down on the floor with my back to the congregation and rub his tummy.  The usher comes back and gives me peace and calming essential oils that I rub on my hands.  I wave my hands over B's face so he can smell my hands.  I keep rubbing his tummy and head.  I'm not sure how many minutes this takes but it lasts through the welcome, greeting your neighbors and part of the first song. Midway through the first song, B bundles up in my lab.  I rock him.  He's coming down now.

I turn to face the front and begin to sing.  B is curled up in my lab, his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes are closed.  We stay on the floor cuddling, rocking and praising.  The sermon begins.  About three fourths of the way through the sermon, B tells me he wants his tablet.  I explain this means going back to our seats with.  We join my mom, Sam and Ryan at our seats.  B plays happily on his new Mickey Mouse art app with his headphones on.  He knows what's happening around him. He answers when the congregation is asked to repeat. The headphones just help him filter.  

After church, he is tired.  He doesn't talk as much as usual.  He's very, very thirsty.  These was a reason he wanted lemonade, after all.  We run a few errands.  He gets a Sprite that he guzzles down.  At home he plays a while then naps.  We are both exhausted.

What can you do if you witness a meltdown?

  • Don't make any assumptions.  Unless you know the family, there's really no way to know if it's a temper tantrum or a meltdown.  Best not to make any comments.
  • Offer help in the form of a question: "may I offer....?" "Is there anything I can do?"
  • Don't be surprised if getting the trigger item doesn't help.  The kiddo may be too far gone to realize what you're offering or the parent might not have wanted them to have it to begin with.  
  • Don't offer bribes.  A sucker can not stop a meltdown.  B has to get calm first.  Then he will take your candy for sure.  
  • Try not to stare.  This is so hard but so necessary.
  • Explain what's happening to your kids so they don't stare "B's just having a hard time right now.  Let's give him some space"
  • Give some space.  Sam used to have fever seizures.  All we could do was wait them out then help him recover.  B's meltdowns are similar.  We try to help him come out of it then help him recover.  
  • Pray.  Meltdowns are hard on everyone.  They are hard on B, they are hard on us and I'm sure they are hard to watch.  Pray for B's safety and for a calming spirit.  
Questions? Ask away!