Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Crying, a Signal for Frustration?

By Christina VanGinkel

In talking with a young mother that I happened to be sitting by at the park the other day, she mentioned how her young daughter cried at the simplest things. She cried if she was told she could not have a cookie when she asked for one. She sobbed uncontrollably if told that it was time to put away the crayons, because it was almost dinner. In addition, heaven forbid she was asked to run and use the bathroom if they were going to be heading out in the car, and a bathroom would not be convenient for the next half an hour. We came unto this subject when my grandson walked by her and she started to cry. We think it was because he jumped up on the shaky bridge and walked across it. She had been looking at it, trying to decide if she was going across when he marched right up and hopped on.

As we talked, I told her that I was a mom of three, and grandmother to one grandson, the little bundle of energy racing around the park with no fear whatsoever. I went on to tell her that this bundle of energy's mom was very similar in actions, at about the same age, to what she was experiencing with her own daughter. I assured her that in my own personal experience, her daughter was going through a phase that would pass right around the time her daughter started school. We went on to discuss how each child was different, and if this continued she should probably discuss the situation with her pediatrician or family doctor. We also discussed what was happening when her daughter did experience what she referred to as a meltdown.

It was clear that whenever her daughter was overwhelmed by 'urgency' this was usually a trigger, or if she was interrupted unexpectedly, when she was getting up the courage to do something on her own, as had just happened when my grandson raced past her to the shaky bridge. She had been contemplating getting up on it, when he inadvertently interrupted her. While this is a situation that the mother, as had I, would have a hard time avoiding, there were things she could do at home and in her own personal situations. Recognize the triggers for example. If being told that it was time to put away the crayons would set off the showers of tears, try giving her several short warnings first. Start by letting her know that the table is going to need setting in, say, fifteen minutes. A warning again in a few minutes that she should finish what she is working on, then again when she has about five minutes left. If she has a hard time still grasping the concept, try a kitchen timer. This will giver her daughter some control visually of the time left. I use to use a sand timer that came boxed in an old game. Whenever I would need my daughter to finish a task I would hand her the timer and let her flip it over to start. By allowing her this 'space' we slowly but surely lost most of the crying. It also showed her that we were at least acknowledging that certain situations frustrated her, which provided us all the time and space to help her voice what it was that was bothering her. She was feeling as if she had no control. By giving her some control, but letting us, the parents, still set the rules, we were able to find a happy solution all the way round.

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