Thursday 4 September 2014

Taking A Temper Check

I've had a couple of people contact me privately to ask if I'm having trouble keeping my own temper in the face of Alex's aggressiveness, Nathan's tantrums and my own anxiety.

It's good to have other people checking in with me but I think it's important to understand my own limits and recognize when I'm getting into a danger zone.

Being frustrated as a parent, especially a special needs parent, that's normal and acceptable and no one should ever feel guilty about it.  We're dealing with things which weren't even listed on the parent brochure as possibilities (and that thing wasn't all roses and sunshine to begin with).  It doesn't mean we love our children any less, it just means that we're human.

That said, that doesn't leave any room for excuses.  When the environment is high-stress, then it is even more crucial to know our limits.  People can't parent in anger.  It clouds judgment faster than a dozen shots of tequila.  When frustration and anger start to tempt a parent into striking back, then it's time to walk away, regardless of the consequences.  Forget consistency.  Forget other people's reactions.  Take the time to regain your calm.  That's the number one and, frankly, the only priority in that moment.

I don't think the temptation to violence is a sign of a bad parent.  I think it is the sign of a parent who is over his/her head and needs help.  When everything has been tried and there are still no signs of success, it's easy to let frustrations lash out.  But at the end of the day, the parent is the adult and so the onus is on him/her to figure it out.

This is part of the dirty little secret of the special needs world.  No one wants to be linked in any way to abusive parents but this job is soul-grindingly hard and twenty-four-seven.  I know a number of parents who are overwhelmed but have no one they can trust with their children.

There are options for help.  OCTC and a number of behavioural therapy companies offer paid respite.  Sometimes you have to be a client, others are open to anyone.  Educational Assistants at your local school often supplement their income by doing respite (I find I've had to go through the principal who passes on my contact information to interested parties).  It's not ideal and it's certainly pricier than hiring a local teen, but it's something.

Taking time for yourself is a necessity.  Without it, it's easy to drown in the requirements of everyone else.  It's not selfish, it's part of being a good parent.

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