When your child or teen is going into a crisis mode, you might feel your own emotional state beginning to rise. You may start to feel angry, frustrated, upset, sad, or shocked. When you see someone have an overreaction to a situation, your first instinct might be to try to fix the problem quickly. If seeing someone in a reactive state and going into a crisis gets you worked up, you might want to jump in quickly to resolve the heightened emotions that you are feeling. However, watching an extreme emotional reaction with an equally reactive response might create more tension in the situation. The situation can escalate and you may have a more difficult time coming to a resolution for the issue.
You are dealing with a tough situation. Being a parent is hard work and everyone can get frustrated. When you learn skills to maintain your “cool” during a crisis, you can bring the situation to a close more quickly than if you react to your natural emotions. Remaining calm during a crisis is difficult, but you can do this! You can help to restore a sense of peace in your family by working on your own emotional regulation and health. When you are strong mentally and emotionally, you might be more capable of acting in a calm manner in the midst of chaos.
Remaining Calm and Finding a Solution
Before reacting to a crisis situation, stop for a second. Unless your child’s safety is at risk, you might be able to stop for a moment before allowing your emotions to get the best of you. You can do this if your child is yelling or screaming, slamming doors, making threats, having a meltdown, or any type of “tantrum” behaviors. Give yourself a second to respond and calm down by taking deep breaths or counting to ten. You can interrupt your natural emotional response by focusing consciously on your breath or your counting.
Once you have stopped yourself from reacting, you can now think a little more clearly about the situation. You can think of a course of action to take. Remember that a crisis is the communication of a need. When your child is acting out or being disruptive, they may have a certain need and be unsure of how to meet that need. They may need some guidance and support to work out a solution. Include your child in the decision-making process to empower them in the situation. Treat the crisis as an opportunity for growth and learning.
When you speak to your child to problem-solve during a crisis keep the following in mind:
Speak firmly at a low volume
Be simple and direct
Sit down, if possible
Use an “open” posture, do not cross your arms or appear defensive
Be mindful of your facial expressions, you want to try not to appear shocked or angry
Try to have a calm expression that does not convey any particular emotion except concern and caring
Knowing When to “Tap Out”
You might be doing your best to remain calm and work toward resolving the situation, yet your child is not calming down as quickly as you expected. As time passes, you might be feeling your own emotions begin to rise again. If you have a partner with you, you might need to “tap out” or switch roles. As your child learns to regulate their own emotions, they may need more time, in the beginning, to calm down before they can work on solutions. Lean on your partner during these times and take turns to keep yourself from getting too worked up.
If you do not have a partner to work with, you may need to reset with some more calming exercises for yourself. You may need to take deep breaths or count to ten several times during the crisis. Model deep breathing and let your child see what you do to calm down. They may pick up on your example. When your child does come around to finding solutions, invite them to take deep breaths along with you. You can invite your child to sit with you and count ten deep breaths along with you. Before beginning to discuss the situation and come to a resolution, you want to be sure that you and your child are in a relatively calm state of mind.
Once you are both calm, you can begin to communicate and find solutions to the crisis. Remember to thank your child for calming down and speaking with you about their issues. You do not have to point out the crisis by saying something like, “You didn’t need to get worked up! We could’ve solved this problem without shouting!” Rather than telling your child what they should not do, focus on the good things that they are doing. You can reinforce these positive behaviors by calling attention to them and praising your child for their hard work.
When your child is in a crisis, you may feel tempted to react at a matched level due to your own heightened emotional state. Seeing our children in a crisis and knowing that they are in pain can be difficult for us to manage ourselves. We may be worried and concerned about their safety. We may be fearful about what may happen if the crisis escalates. When we are able to control our own reactivity, we can get a better handle on the situation. Remember to remain calm by taking deep breaths and counting to ten. Take a break by getting help from your partner, if you are able to do so. Role-model for your child and praise them for their efforts. Any step in the right direction is a win for you both! If your child is frequently in a state of crisis, you may need to take the next steps for their care. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here for you when you need help. Call us at (303) 443-3343.