Major Meltdowns: From bad to worse

Crying HeadMy six-year-old daughter opened the second-floor -window. “What’re you doing?” I said.

“I’m trying to jump out the window!” She kicked the screen. I grabbed her and held her back. I got my arms around her body and dragged her — shouting “Noooo!” — to her room and wrestled her onto her bed. I lay there with her, telling her this would pass and we’d have to wait it out. “I don’t care!” she said. “You don’t care about me! I wanna jump out the window!” I held her down as she cried and fought me.

“You had some colors and this will go away,” I said. “It’ll get better.”

I held her down for a half hour until she calmed down. During that time I found out why she was so upset. We had company, and she wanted to play hide and seek. And we did. But my husband and our friend hid in the game room, and apparently that was not a sanctioned hiding place. So my daughter blew up. She’s allergic to artificial food dyes and this is their effect on her. We do our best to avoid them, but sometimes something slips by us and leads to a meltdown of epic proportions (See “Dog Tirade” and “Dethroning the Drama Queen) And the cause is always something trivial – a disappointment she would normally handle with ease.

During these meltdowns, she hits herself and bangs her head on the walls and runs away, but she’s never tried to jump out a window. Then again, we’ve never had windows so high off the ground and framed so low that they’re accessible. But it’s not the windows and it’s not the dye. It’s the behavior we’ve got to work on.

We chalked the dye meltdown up to McDonald’s lunch that day, but the next morning’s meltdown had nothing to do with dye. My daughter wanted to play with her brother’s Legos. According to our house rule, she asked him to play with his toys and he said no. But instead of respecting his answer, she freaked out, screaming and crying and claiming her father yelled at her. She ran upstairs and opened the window again, saying she wanted to jump out of it. This time, my husband caught her and stayed with her until she calmed down.

We’ve got to do something, but we’re not sure what. I signed her up for therapy, but the last time a therapist offered her coping methods, she couldn’t use them in the throes of a tantrum. What I would really like for her is a service dog. If a service dog can calm people with Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder, it can calm my daughter during her meltdowns. I’m expecting the therapist (and our health insurance) to recommend medication and maybe that’s a good option. I’m bipolar and she’s got my genes, so maybe she’s got something chemical going on.  But medication won’t give her coping skills, and that’s really what she needs.

Coping skills are really what her father and I need too. What should we do when she has a meltdown? How do we discipline her without fearing a meltdown? What do we do for our son, who’s learned to hit himself when he has a meltdown? I hope we find some answers soon. We’ve got a lot of windows.