Since the return of the hysterical crying, we've been working on ways to stop Janey's screaming spells in the bud. Nothing always works, but we're developing a mental checklist, which I want to work into a written checklist, so in the heat of battle, we remember what to try. Here's a first attempt, in order of the first thing to try to the last
1. Food. Janey is often hungry but doesn't recognize that. When she screams, getting food into her often helps a lot. Sometimes to make this quick, we give her a milk bottle (with Strawberry Quik in it) That sometimes stops the screaming short. After that, we make sure to offer her lots of preferred foods. This works pretty well, as Janey's preferred foods are not high calorie, so she can have unlimited amounts of them.
2. Noise. We have a policy that if Janey is crying, we turn off any video she might have on. She is often upset by parts of videos, and that sometimes is the reason for crying. Or they are near over, and she is worried about that. We also turn off any music or other media we might have on.
3. Sleep. If it's close to bedtime, I just lie down with Janey and try to get her to sleep. She's pretty easy to get to sleep, so that can be a good quick solution.
4. Attention. This isn't what Janey wants as much as it would be for most kids, but sometimes it's what she needs. We will just hold her, or depending on her mood, play with her with a preferred toy---right now, a ball or hula hoop.
5. Bath. Water works wonders with Janey. In the summer, this can also be a trip to the backyard for her wading pool.
6. Change of clothes. Janey prefers no clothes, but as she gets older, we are working to get her over that! She'd rather wear dresses, so putting one on her sometimes helps.
7. Pain. Janey has never been able to tell us when she's in pain. If we have reason to think she might be, sometimes giving her a dose of Tylenol helps very much.
8. Change of scenery. This often doesn't work, but it does, it's great. We put Janey in the car and just drive. Having the windows down if possible is something that really seems to help.
9. Ignoring. This is close to a last resort. It doesn't make the screaming better, but it doesn't usually make it worse, either. This is something I often see mentioned as a strategy, and I think it works much better for kids that are screaming for attention. She doesn't usually scream for attention, so whether or not we pay attention doesn't affect her much. But sometimes, it saves our sanity just to take a few minutes and let her yell.
10. Crying couch. On days when it's very, very bad, I try telling Janey she can only cry on the crying couch, our smaller couch. I just put her there whenever the yelling starts. I don't think this does much, but it is something to do when nothing else has worked.
I'm sure there are more, but 10 is a good start. And there is no guarantee any of those will work at all. I'd say half the time, none of them do. But it gives us something to try, and feel less helpless. I think sometimes her crying is caused by internal scary things. She still mentions "The clicking sound" or "the banging sound" now and then. I wonder if those are her hearing her own heart beating when she is very worked up, or if they are internal noises. I think our pediatrician might have been onto something when he said Janey might hear voices at times. I am working on teaching her "I am scared" and once in a while, she says that, or "that's too scary". I don't think she really gets the meaning, but she might at some point.
I feel for anyone that deals with the screaming. One of the hardest parts is that people don't get the intensity of it. It's not like a fussy kid whining or a spoiled kid crying. It's about 100 times more intense than that. It's completely impossible to carry on with our day when it happens, impossible for the boys to do homework, for us to have company, to even keep your sanity much of the time. I hope it gets less as she gets older. Boy, do I hope that.