Sunday, 11 February 2018

Managing emotional regulation

One of the topics that I have been hearing a lot of lately in the toughest month of the year is
centred around emotional regulation.  When children impacted by FASD become extremely
stressed, they will find ways to release that emotion. Some of the methods that children may
use is swearing, hitting and kicking other people.  As parents, it is hard to know how to deal
with that situation.
The first thing you need to be aware of is this is a method of communication and is not specifically
targeting you.  I recently learned that we all have three muscles groups that we will use to release
that emotion.  Those three groups are our jaw muscles, arm muscles and leg muscles.  Just like
we have verbal, visual and touching learning styles, we all have a preferred method of the three
muscles groups.  If your child prefers to run or kick when extremely angry, they prefer leg muscles.  
If they punch or flap, they prefer arm muscles. And if they prefer to talk non-stop or yell, they prefer
jaw muscles.  The key to this is which one actually de-escalates them when they do it.  The other
groups will be for maintenance purposes only.
Once you determine their preferred muscle group, start looking for the signs that tell you they are
escalating.  Children will show behaviour that will tell you when they are struggling.  Some behaviours
you may see include becoming quiet, leaving and hiding, breaking out in hives, their lips and/or hands
becoming tense, or holding their breath.  This is where you really want to become the detective and
actively watch what is happening before they explode.  When children are struggling, it is normally
due to being asked to do something or manage something which they can't do.  Frustration will build
and eventually you get the explosion.  If you see frustration starting, end the activity immediately and
go to a de-escalating activity.
As you begin the de-escalating activity, be very conscious of your own state of mind.  Force yourself to
remain calm, breathe and use a quiet voice.  Focus on showing compassion to your child.  You want
to get close to them and get them to focus on you instead of the frustrating activity.  If they are too far
gone to focus, ask them to count to ten with you.  Counting to ten makes them engage their logical
brain and gives their emotional brain a chance to clear out the chemicals that are overwhelming them.
 You may need to count to ten three or four times before they can start talking.
You can move to your de-escalating activity now.  If you know arm muscles is their preferred muscles,
get a big exercise ball, hold it on the floor and tell them to start punching it.  Use both arms and
remind them to breath while they are doing so.  Take the ball and get them to bounce it as high as
they can.  Get them to throw it at a wall as hard as they can.  Do as many pushups as possible.  For
leg muscles, get on the trampoline and bounce as high as possible.  Sprint as long as you can.  Go
swimming in the pool.  Do as many squats as possible.  For jaw muscles, chew on a hard chew toy,
practice doing the auction song, yell as loud as possible and talk as long as possible.  The key is
remind them to do deep breathing in all these activities.  You do this until they are completely
exhausted.  Do not try to understand what escalated them at that time as we don't want to shame
them.  Wait until the next day when they are calm and have had time to process.
The elephant in the room, though, is what if they are too far gone and start hurting you or others.  
First, remember to stay calm.  Your child is communicating they need help and that requires you to
have control of the situation.  It may take time but they will follow your model.  If you get angry, they
will get angry.  If you are calm, they will get calm.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are
getting hurt, look into getting trained in Nonviolent Crisis Prevention Intervention.  This is the method
the Ministry of Community and Social Services recognizes the proper form of prevention and use of
physical restraint.  Most local colleges and/or service providers at times offer this course as well as
certain organizations. recently posted an excellent article regarding how to use NVCI with someone impacted by FASD.
You want to get yourself informed about your child's signs and triggers of frustration.  Once you
recognize the signs, the fear that your child may explode on you will leave because you will see that
they are communicating to you when they need help.  If you are having difficulty recognizing the
signs, get help from a third party like a psychotherapist.  My wife and I have benefited greatly from
having others giving us insights and perspectives we just don’t see.  In all my years of teaching
special education, I have yet to meet a child who wouldn't give me some sign they were about to
explode.  It may be quick and/or subtle, but the signs will be there.  Remember, you are a great
parent and your child does love you no matter what they may say or do.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. I believe we all need to release emotion on a daily basis or it will build up and come out uncontrollably.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.