6yo kicking & screaming meltdown - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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6yo kicking & screaming meltdown

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What do you do?

How do you respond when your hyperkinetic 6yo tips into the red zone becoming inconsolable while screaming, kicking, throwing things, banging walls/doors etc?

I can see it coming, and sometimes we’re able to successfully interrupt the mood before it becomes this bad, but other times, there just doesn’t seem to be anything that can get through. And when it reaches this point, this behavior can go on for 45min to an hour. It’s usually when he’s exhausted, and usually he just screams it out and then crashes hard (falls asleep).

How do you keep everyone safe in the meantime? How do you support/respond to the child in need when there are (younger) siblings needing you?

Asking for a friend. Jk. It’s me. I’m asking for me.

16 Replies

A I remember those days. My explosive child is now 13 and does not do that anymore. However I used to have a room in the house. The guest room that I tried to keep clear of sharp toys like legos. Only stuffed animals in there. When she would melt down i would carry her there and just let her scream and cry while I repeated over and over. “You are so sad. So angry. I want to help you feel better. “ after a couple years she started saying those exact words. “ i m so aad and angry. Help me feel better. “ i would also sign that in ASL and she found that interesting and that would sometimes break the spell. At the time I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing but it felt doable and it gave her words and an understanding of her feelings. Hugs.

I would continue to redirect your child whenever you can see it coming. If it is possible and you have the space, I would create a place in your home for your child to get those feelings out safely. A place that has nothing he could hurt himself with, hurt others with, or create damage to the environment with. I know that can seem like a tall order, but it will be helpful if you can create an environment for the behavior. When the meltdown starts, you bring him to that space. I also placed myself nearby so I could monitor, but not be part of it. That way, I knew he was safe and I wasn’t chasing bad energy with more bad energy.

I guess we basically already do that. Only a padded room would be truly safe. He’s kicked holes in walls during these meltdowns. This isn’t even one of my aggressive kids; well, in the sense this guy isn’t trying to hurt anyone but rather just expressing all those big feelings. I’m not really sure there’s much else I can do for the distressed child in the moment. Meds have been helping.

A big concern is how to be there for the kid having the meltdown while also supervising my other kids who are being affected by the stressful situation.

Sometimes they just need to be heard. I had a box of things my son was allowed to break - chopsticks, plastic utensils, etc…just to get the feelings out. Can you offer to scream and break things with him? He loved when I acknowledged his big feelings.

Therapy also helped my son realize when he’s heading in that angry direction- so he can take steps to deal with the feelings in better ways. For him that’s shooting baskets, listening to music or going for a long walk.

Great reminder! My go-tos are to kick/punch the mattress or scream into a pillow, but those options don’t seem to appeal as much.

Gonna assemble a smash bin today!

What if the child is spiraling into the totally irritated zone at a family member’s home and the child starts to make very rude remarks?

I think with our kids we don't have the luxury of getting to do things on our schedule. If they are starting to melt down, wherever you are- it's game over. Plan changed. But if you are at somebody else's house I guess you have to know what are realistic expectations for your child. I realized my kids lost it a lot of the time because I set them up for failure. I took them back to a crowded playground where kids were likely to trigger them, I didn't acknowledge sensory issues at the hair cutter, I let them go too long without food or sleep, or I even took them somewhere other kids could've been calm but not mine. It's like strategizing life through an emotional landmine with our kids but we have to adjust our expectations to them and not the other way around! Hope that answers your question. It's so tough never knowing when your kid is going to put you in an awkward situation. I've found it helpful to educate people too, like counselors, parents of other kids, etc- I just say: I'm sorry my child has developmental delays. He doesn't have to proper skills to handle this better right now so he needs us to teach him. Here's how I do that.

I also Took everything out of my sons bedroom so that he could have a place to go where he wasn’t going to hurt anything. When he’s going crazy I carry him to his room. I used to try and talk to him during it but For us, with both of our sons, it just works a lot better to let them have their time and then when they are done they are usually ready to talk. I have never found that trying to talk to them during the meltdown to be successful. Good luck, you are obviously not alone, many of us have been through or are still going through that. I think the best way to show love to them is to not get worked up ourselves, even though that is so hard!

Agree that it usually seems best to just give them space to let it out, and I do always say better out than in, but we are working on the healthy outward expression.

We’ve never done therapy but a lot of other people say it’s helped with their kids so maybe that’s a way to go for helping with healthy outward expression. When my older son with ADHD got to be about nine or 10 he started to be able to pinpoint when he was going to burst out of control while having a heated conversation with me and could say mom I just can’t talk about this anymore. Butv6 years old is very hard for them, isn’t it?! You mentioned finding a balance between helping The child having outburst that also helping the other children witnessing it. Are you other children younger, Older? It might help if they are old enough to talk together as a family about what the other children could do when an outburst is happening. Just a thought :)

Following this post. Just weathered a pretty big meltdown (bigger than normal) from my 7year old and looking to see what has worked for others.

Thinking of you! Those kind of meltdowns really take it out of you, and we had three in a span of five evenings plus another one just yesterday. For me, the hardest part is finding space for the big emotions without major damage to our home or belongings. That and trying to take care of my other kids (and my own sanity) when the screaming and thrashing goes on for so long. Obviously our children are hurting, but it sure feels like a form of torture.

Wow, that is hard! I would say stay consistent, if you saying no to something brings him to this, do not give in afterwards just to appease him or it will continue. Seek counseling for you and for the child, if you can't afford it, many churches have professional free counsel. Magnesium is calming of mind body and spirit and might help all of you some. Blessings, praying for answers for you.

I have to say that I had to get behavioral therapy for my son at age 2 because his meltdowns were routinely lasting up to an hour a day. I can't remember how many places I had to drag him out of. Finally this year the meltdowns were getting too intense for us all to the point that my younger child would start screaming that he didn't want to pick up his brother from camp because he didn't want him to scream in the car at him. That's when I knew I had to try medicine and thankfully Zoloft is helping him a lot. I did another post about that. We worked with a clinical psychiatrist who did a thorough evaluation and said it was anxiety behind a lot of the behavioral issues. Thankfully a very small dose 12.5 mg that he takes at night has lessened the meltdowns to under 15 mins and usually only at the end of the day when he's tired. I think at some point they are spiraling and they cannot be expected to try to regulate themselves when they are so dysregulated. They need help. I have heard people have luck with changing diet, but that has been too overwhelming for me to do. I'm doing a food sensitivity test to try to figure out if there is a specific reaction before doing a full elimination diet.

I will also say that before the medication it helped to have both my boys in martial arts 3x/week. They thrived on the physical aspect and also the discipline. If there's a sport or some other physical activity he could do regularly, I think that really helps boys.

Hoping you will find a way to help your son! That isn't just your/your friend it's all of us!

Thanks for your response. We’re still working out the kinks with meds, and actually, this particular child is probably my easiest one. I have two others with ODD and fourth one who is reminding me a lot more of the two ornery ones than she is of her hyperkinetic but otherwise absolutely lovely brother.

After reading all the books, applying all the parenting strategies and trying absolutely all the things except meds, I thankfully got over my own issue and we’re now getting support with finding the right combo of meds. So, there’s that. I know from experience the other stuff is important also, but if our adhd brains are actually wired differently, no amount of sleep or clean eating us going to change that. Womp. Womp.

And thankfully we’re finally getting back into the swing of swim practice and our other sports. During “the before,” we relied on a combination of martial arts, swimming and team sports to help channel all the energy, so the lack of all those supports during the pandemic really took a toll on us. We still kept up with getting out to hike, bike, explore and just generally be outdoors in the fresh air, but I think we’ve all just had too much togetherness. We’re unschoolers (homeschool), too, so I feel like we’re still recovering from just being on top of each other all the time. Plus, we all have adhd plus several cases of ODD (as I mentioned), so it’s basically an emotional cesspool in our house.

Just trying to create a safe space to let it all out when necessary while keeping the others safe and hopefully minimizing the stress created for the rest when one of the kids (or us parents) is having an emotional meltdown. Life with all these special needs is already EXTRA extra, but the pandemic has just upped the ante to the nth degree and left us in a tailspin. Hanging in there and taking it minute by minute when we have to.

I'm sorry that really does sound tough! I appreciate your feedback about the diet restrictions. I think there is truth to the fact that inflammation really does affect a lot of stuff concerning anxiety, but there's still a lot of people who don't see improvement. And a lot of this is due to genetics. At the end of the day we can only do SO MUCH, right?! It's like- people say: Have you tried this, or that... and you've tried EVERYTHING! UGH.

I had to come to terms with the fact that COVID has just dumped extra stress on kids (and me) who were already stressed out and provided chaos for kids who thrive on structure. So I can only control so much. I am doing my best and I have to accept that things can be rough sometimes due to no fault of my own.

Sometimes the smallest tweaks can help when I figure out the triggers, but not every trigger can or should be avoided.

I debate putting my kid in his room where he can destroy crap or leaving him out in the living room where he just sets off his brother.

None of it is easy, but I hope you all can find even some simple things to reduce the stress and anxiety in your house!

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