Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Outbursts

In many ways, the summer is starting out well with Janey.  She has been happy overall.  We've spent a lot of time in the back yard, as always, and a lot of time watching PBS Kids.  Both of those are low key activities that let us both relax, and I think Janey needed a little down time.

What's new and a little tough to deal with are Janey's sudden outbursts.  These are quite different than the times when she would get upset and cry all day.  The crying usually came on at least fairly gradually, over the course of a few days, but the outbursts are out of the blue.  Janey can be perfectly happy and content, and suddenly, she starts screaming hysterically, flailing around, crying a river, overcome with fury or misery or who knows what.

We usually have no idea what has set her off.  I try what I think of as scaffold sentences, where I start with something like "I am very sad because I don't like...." or "I am very angry because I want...." and she often fills in something, but it's hard to say if it's what she is really thinking or just a random fill-in.  I don't think she usually knows herself sets her off.  It could be a sound, or pain someplace, or just the random pre-teen emotion that she has no idea how to handle.

The good thing about the outbursts vs. the days of crying is that they are easier to calm (and shorter).  Often, just holding her for a little while and talking in a soothing voice can calm her, or giving her something to eat, or just sometimes waiting it out.

In thinking of triggers, actually tone of voice is a big one.  Janey is hugely sensitive to the tone of conversation, if not the content.  We've had some family around the last few days, and while we certainly weren't fighting or screaming, we tend to tell stories dramatically, and Janey doesn't get that.  She hears our voices sounding sad or emphatic or upset, and she freaks out.  We often have to switch to what I think of as the "It's a GOOD thing!" voice, like Anthony on that Twilight Zone episode.

I often to remind myself that most kids Janey's age have emotional outbursts.  Often, although they will say what is upsetting them, the outbursts make little more sense than Janey's.  I remember that with the boys.  They could suddenly be hit by a huge wave of anger or despair, which they would label as being about a fight with each other or food they didn't like or homework, when I'm pretty sure it was just a feeling out of the blue, one of those pre-adolescent moments.  When I keep that in mind, Janey's outbursts feel a little more manageable and less scary than some of her past behaviors, as long as we don't let them escalate.  If they are the biggest challenge of this summer, I think we'll get by.

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