Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!

Raising and teaching 2e kids can cause adults to exhibit the exact behavior they are trying to control in the 2e child. How do we gain control over our own intense emotions triggered by the intense emotions in our 2e children and students?

It’s been a month of great mantras. A friend said to me “When you’re in your head, you’re behind enemy lines.” Wow, is that true! You know what I mean. We as parents, teachers and clinicians all experience self-doubt, criticism and negative self-talk when we feel as though we aren’t succeeding with our 2e kids, students, clients or even our 2e selves.

As I write this blog, we are very near to Yom Kippur – a Jewish high holiday marking the culmination from our New Year celebration to an intense period of reflection and atonement. We contemplate where we are, where we’ve been, where we want to go. We think about this in a psychological way; How can we change? What can we do better? We think about this in a practical way – like making a strategic plan for our lives. We think of it in an emotional way; Who have I hurt? How can I make amends? How will I do better?

So often we witness 2e children experiencing emotional upheavals, behavioral breakdowns and then the remorse they feel afterwards is just as intense. As their parents and teachers, we are often in a similar cycle. On top of it all, sometimes adult reactions create unnecessary stimulation. We engage in the very behaviors we want stopped; yelling, feet stomping, threatening, hurtful speech.

As much as we want our 2e kids in control, we often lose control, and this scares us. We are afraid. Afraid of what might become of our children. Afraid of allowing a student to react and emote in a classroom full of other children. Afraid that we somehow caused this behavior. Afraid for the other kids/siblings in the room. Afraid we can’t handle the situation. We need to be in control or we think we’ll lose control.

Pause. Take a step back (literally), breathe and let the moment unfold. The adrenalin and other chemicals in the body (the child’s and the adult’s) need to wear out, run their course because of whatever the trigger was that set the 2e child off in the first place. The child needs to learn to manage the emotions that occur in response to this trigger. So, what happens if the adult’s trigger is the 2e kid? You guessed it. The adult needs to figure out how to manage his own intense response. Again, practicing this pause, keeping your response in check, in whatever way works – counting to 10, walking away, biting your tongue, whatever it takes, to NOT react.

I’m fortunate that right before Yom Kippur our Rabbanit (female spiritual leader) takes a group of women to the mikvah (ritual bath). This is a practice done at various times to allow one to feel purified and renewed. We reflect on our year, and support and sing with one another. We pause in time. The mikvah is sometimes likened to a “rebirth,” a chance to go forth leaving within the waters what you wish to leave behind in order to move forward with a new outlook. This physical and psychological manifestation of another chance and beginning again is a tremendous re-set button for life. If you can, find a regular ritual that allows you to do that. Whether it’s using water like taking a shower or bath, mindfulness practice like meditation, or breathing, writing a “hate/love” list every evening, or just forgiving yourself in the moment and owning up to your own emotional intensity, whatever works for you to leave it all behind, forgive yourself and your triggers and start anew.

This recalibration or pivot can happen anytime in a person’s life. If you are looking to get out of the cycle you’re in, if what you are doing isn’t working, change it up. Pause. Breath. Reflect. Think. Listen. Do something different. That different thing may be to do less in a moment of conflict and allow yourself to be okay with that. Sometimes not controlling the situation is the best form of control; allowing the course to unfold in its own way in its own time. The role modeling potential is huge here. Managing your own intensities thereby not adding to your child’s or student’s emotions, affords them the opportunity to not escalate their emotions. This intentional effort of self-control allows the child to gain self-control and by not trying to manage everything we allow them to manage something.

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Julie F. Skolnick M.A., J.D.

Julie F. Skolnick M.A., J.D.

Julie Skolnick, M.A., J.D., is the Founder of With Understanding Comes Calm, LLC, through which she passionately guides parents of gifted and distractible children, mentors 2e adults, and collaborates with and advises educators and professionals on bringing out the best and raising self-confidence in their students and clients.

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