It is very common for disabled children to have mood swings. Low mood, anger and sadness are all common emotional states for disabled children to experience.
Your child’s mood is no reflection on you as a parent or their feelings toward you.
You’re still the target though and that is because you’re the closest target.
It is nothing personal and not reflective of your child’s true feelings toward you.
That being said, it is still not a great thing to go through.
What Causes Mood Swings?
For disabled children, mood swings are often linked to their conditions and this can sometimes be the case.
However with conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, although low mood and anger are common, they are not necessarily directly linked to the condition.
So what are the causes?
Well for children with physical impairments the causes are often more environmental. This is particularly true as the child gets older.
Here is a little insight into how they might be feeling.
When you are much younger and have a physical impairment, it can be tricky to notice the difference between you and other kids.
Everyone stays in, they play with toys and it is easy for physically disabled kids to feel on a level playing field.
Then things begin to change…
The child begins to get older, they see their peers become more active. Often they see kids playing on the street, they see them running, climbing, exploring and the differences become more apparent.
Frustration and anger are easy emotions to understand in this respect – your child is perhaps becoming aware for the first time that there are real differences between them and others.
What can be sometimes more difficult to understand is the sense of loss.
The old saying goes that you never miss what you never had…
That might be true in some cases but if you can see the people around you with something, then that is more difficult.
You can see the difference and you can feel it. Then it easy to wonder what you might not have in the future.
This is where the phrase, “I wish that I had not been born like this,” comes from.
A child with a physical impairment can cycle through these emotions in an instant.
Children with learning difficulties can have a slightly different experience…
Although those same emotions and situations might contribute toward mood swings, they can be more closely linked to their conditions.
For children with these conditions, their emotional states can be like a cup full of sugar. There is an endless stream of grains continually falling into the cup until it overflows.
Everything can feel too much. The lights, the smallest sounds to the way things move.
Techniques To Help
Every child is different so there will never be a one size fits all. That being said, here are some things that may help.
Sometimes, no matter what you say or do, if the child is that highly escalated, you just need to leave them alone. Create a safe space (if they don’t have one) and guide them to it.
Sometimes, if a child is highly escalated, either happy, sad or angry, they can pose a danger to theirselves or ours.
In this case, it can be good to use intense interaction, which creates a feeling of being grounded. Feeling grounded can be the first and foremost priority.
Does intense interaction work for physically impaired children?
Distraction can feel like your being a bad parent to a certain extent. But sometimes it is the only way.
What do we mean by distraction?
Distraction can be that favourite song, video or game. The conflict from a parental perspective is that you can feel like you are rewarding bad behaviour.
You are doing anything for a quiet life.
Neither of these feelings are true.
Trying To Parent During An Episode Will Never Work
Here’s the thing…
Trying to explain, change or challenge the behaviour during an episode is never a good idea. Remember the child is in a heightened state and you must wait for this to pass.
How To Approach The Aftermath
When the child deescalate, the key is what to say next and things like the tone of your voice etc.
Listen intently, find what the stimulus is and how your child might deal with it next time.
This is important for both you and your child. For you, it is about understanding the trigger points, which will make you more aware in the future.
For your child, it is about helping them understand how they are feeling, how they made you feel and what you both might do differently in the future.
Saying how you feel and ensure that your child understands that is important. Your child does care about how you feel, loves you and does want to see you upset.
Don’t Begin To Feel Anxious About Potential Future Episodes
Some episodes can be bad for you and your child. This is particularly true if something happens out in public.
However as a parent, if you begin to feel anxious about another episode happening in future, your child will pick up on this and begin to feel anxious themselves.
It may well feel tempting to avoid certain situations if for example, you associate them with certain triggers.
As I was writing this post – this came out:
Just because a child has the potential to have an episode – does not mean that they will.
And if they are struggling to control their emotions…
With good communication between the two of you, it can and will get better.
Here are some useful links: