Walking to school with 2 children who struggle with meltdowns

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    • #10243
      Lesley Gould

      Hi, I tried to complete a scenario question in Module 2 regarding a recurring challenge I have with Getting both my girls (Hannah 8 & Esme 4) to walk the short distance to school together peacefully with no meltdowns in the morning.Hannah has a disability and gets frustrated easily, which also sets Esme off into meltdown mode too when Hannah has one!

      I’d love some feedback regarding other strategies I could try?

      Centre: How do I feel? Annoyed/frustrated, Angry, Embarrassed, Anxious, Sad,

      What do I need? Acceptance of the situation, Co-operation from the girls, To stay calm and in control, To stay positive.

      Tools I will try: Breathe, Active Listening, Self-Care

      What information do I need? How to help manage this situation better, tips, guidance, advice

      Connect: How might my children feel? Annoyed/frustrated, Angry, Anxious, Sad

      What does my child need? Connection/Nurturing, Acceptance, Emotional Security, Emotional Release, Independence, Love

      What information does my child need? To know all of the expectations and for these to be consistent every day.

      Tools I will try: Quality Time: Spend time in the morning with each of the girls, connecting with them and having a nice relaxing time (massaging their feet/reading a story/cuddling etc) and talk through the walk to school with them and explain what the expectations are and what will happen and when.

      Communication: Using pictures, ask Hannah what would help make the walk to school easier for her. Go over the routine with both girls at a time when it is not walk to school time. Actually do the walk, talking it over as we do it.

    • #10289

      That must be incredibly stressful for you all Lesley. It sounds like you are really connected with your girls and working so hard to meet everybody’s needs with love and compassion. I wonder about your needs too and whether there could be more support for you, both practically and emotionally. Could a friend or family member walk with Esme sometimes so you and Hannah could do the walk with just the two of you? Is there some space you could find for self care (being listened to, receiving a massage etc) so you can release some of the anxiety that has understandably built up over the past 3 years. Genevieve talks about the stress patterns that get embedded as body memory from an experience between parent and child being repeatedly difficult (in her response to Tycee https://www.peacefulparent.com/groups/pp-instructor-training-forum/forum/topic/module-2-reflections/). Unwinding out of the stress response for all of you seems key, so that new positive associations with the walk to school might be possible.

      I relate to the repeated stress of transitions with my 4 year old son Hugo, who has needed lots of support at bedtime, before leaving for kindy, transitioning to another caregiver etc. What is helping us is lots of quality time and silly play (easier said than done I know when our lives are so full). Sounds like you are already spending quality time in the morning with the girls before going to school- gosh how beautiful massaging their feet! And using pictures to get Hannah’s input into what would make the walk feel easier for her sounds great too! I wonder also about quality time and a space for emotional release when the pressure of going somewhere isn’t there. I often find after a period of connected play with Hugo, where he is leading the play, his backlog of stress starts to emerge. Often its at the point when its time for the play to end. At first I found that confusing, as we had been so connected. Why was he now getting grumpy and angry? Wasn’t his tank filled up more now not less? Than I came to understand that the connection allowed him to feel safe to let out what was built up and he needed me to hold a ‘loving limit’ to push against, to rage and thrash and eventually cry until the tears had done their healing. These days the release happens through laughter as much as tears. And if it gets out then there is less intensity to off load at those transition times.

      Something else that is helping us with the transitions has been shifting from thinking and saying “we need to do this now” (clean teeth, get into bed, get in the car etc) and rather finding a way to play through the transition so it lightens the intensity and becomes a continuation of play rather than something we need to stop and do. With Hugo recently he has been pretending to be invisible at bath time (trying to reclaim his power?) At first I thought what do I do with that- then realised I could play along, trusting the rhythm was in place and he would follow through if I gave him the autonomy. “I wouldn’t even know if Hugo got in the bath (cleaned his teeth, got into his pjs, got into bed etc), because I can’t see him… ” On one breakthrough night I ended up reading a story to him pretending I couldn’t see him curled up on the bed next to me (bathed, teeth cleaned, in pjs), and then made up a story of the invisible boy as I turned the light off (his biggest hurdle). Moments later he snuggled up and said, “Mum I’m not invisible anymore”, and fell asleep.

      I don’t know if any of that is useful and I hope you don’t mind me sharing my experiences here. Not wanting to take away from yours or minimize Hannah’s additional needs and the challenges that come with that for you guys as a family. I really hope the walks to school get easier for you all. Sending love xx

      • #10319

        @katherinet I loved reading about how you’ve been working to bring more play into the transitions. And love the images of how you wove invisible Hugo into the play! 🙂 I’ll bet he loved that so much!!

        And yes to your insight around how quality time tends to bring up any feelings that are sitting beneath the surface and especially feelings around sadness/ rejection / frustrations relating to the times when the child can’t access enough of that quality time and attention (and I don’t know if any child gets quite as much as they would love to get!). So yes to factoring in the time for the meltdowns at the end of quality time.

        So often parents react because as you say it’s easy for us to feel that their needs are impossible to meet, and I remember wishing my child would express gratitude instead of being upset that it came to an end! Yet that sadness is so so understandable, and this can be a really good time for that sadness to pour out in a satisfying release. ❤

    • #10296
      Lesley Gould

      Hi Katherine!

      Thank you! I love love love your ideas! Thank you for taking time to craft such a thorough and helpful reply. I am going to really think about all of your ideas and try and implement them from tomorrow (especially the keeping all of the “to do’s” like brushing teeth, shoes on etc playful as its when its time to do these things with both of them, trouble can start).

      I read what you wrote about Genevieve’s stress patterns building up and that makes total sense to me. I def have this and the more I complete these units, the more I think I need to seek some professional help myself to be able to unload some of the stress that has built up over the 8 years I have had Hannah. I never like to admit that having a child with a disability/learning disability has affected me so much but I know that my unreleased stress affects the girls too as I go into situations expecting stress to happen.

      I loved your example of the invisible game you play with Hugo, that makes total sense. Honestly, thank you for such a well thought out response, your empathetic and helpful response is super helpful.

    • #10313

      Hi Lesley,

      You are welcome! I am so glad the ideas resonated with you and felt helpful. Love to hear how you get on if you want to share. Yes I can only imagine how stressful and draining 8 years of parenting a child with a disability would be, and so hard to remember that you are important too when you are pouring so much energy and loving support into meeting both your girls’ needs. I relate to the course material bringing up the needs I have shelved and the stress that has built up since becoming a parent. Lots of unravelling happening for me too. Lots of love to you and your family x

    • #10315
      Tabitha Jonson

      Yes soo hard! And I’m not sure if this is the case for you but the added element of the meltdowns being in public always added extra stress for me. I started doing this thing where I imagine a bubble around us and that no one can see us in our bubble and just focus on the kids. I’d sort of talk to myself that those people don’t matter, I just need to focus on my kids.

      Just thinking that there will be those moments where they do get upset and whether you could think through some ideas before hand. Like just stopping, all sitting on the ground and just saying, “Wow, this is soo hard ah my darlings? Let’s just sit for a bit.” I’d often try to just push through and get where we were going or kind of try and make the situation go away and sometimes I just needed to stop and let it unfold. Sooo hard though!!

      May or may not be helpful/applicable but just thought i’d mention it.

    • #10318

      Lesley I just want to check in with you and see how your mornings are going with the walk to school. I loved all that you were already doing to manage the situation as best you could and your ideas that you came up with from working it through with the Behaviour Reflection unit in Module 2. You were going to work with focusing on and slowing your breathing to get centred, increased focus on active listening to help Hannah feel heard and supported and more self-care including more empathy for yourself. I noticed that your emotions that you identified and the emotions that you imagined Hannah experiences at these times were very similar. Drawing on that information can really help to bring us back to the heart connection and empathy. Which is usually what the child most needs in that situation to help them trust that they’re not alone, that mum gets it and the reassurance that you’re really tunining in to her experience.

      But oh boy so so hard to pull that off in the intensity of the emotional storm, and so much harder again when in public. I love Tabitha’s image of imagining a bubble around you and working to zoom out any witnesses. I remember in the zoom call when you talked about Hannah’s meltdowns you said that you’ve really practiced tuning right in to Hannah’s world at those times and tuning out other people.

      Have you been getting on with carving out that quality time in the mornings to fill up her love tank and help her feel secure before heading off to school? Like Katherine, I also just love the sound of the foot massaging! So stress relieving!!

      You talked about talking it through with Hannah at a calm connected time to explore what might work for her? Have you started to bring in family meetings yet? These really can help to create that culture of calm patient listening where each person can relax in to trusting that there’s plenty of time for them to express their thoughts, wants and needs. This might help as well.

      I’m trying to remember if you had already listened to my four Stress Relief for Parents CD tracks? I seem to remember we touched on exploring if your girls might like to listen to the bliss track and if this could help with general stress reduction. And for you Lesley the first track could be a really helpful one to listen to to help you further explore and work through the feelings that these situations bring up for you. Such a huge emotional challenge! With these big challenges, it’s all too easy for the tensions around the situation to keep building, so what we need is to start bringing in more of that mindful awareness of the sensations that the situation brings up and hopefully gaining some stress release.

      If you partner up with someone to do a listening partnership, this could be a good space to really just express any raw feelings around these kind of situations just to get some of it off your chest and feel seen and heard.

      Katherine, I was so touched by your response to Lesley. I can well imagine Lesley that it was lovely to read all that soothing empathy and understanding and support. <3

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