The first step to understanding your child is observing. Autistic children may display atypical behavior, but it’s not random. They express in their way, and once it’s understood, communication improves. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What does your child do when they get angry?
- What happens before and after they become upset or angry?
- Are there any triggers that are always followed by certain behaviors?
The questions can be hard to answer. Start writing down what you observe and what you think your child’s challenges are. A professional can identify triggers of emotions and outline strategies that work for your child. If you give them your writings, they will be able to do that more effectively.
When trying to manage the emotions of the child, it’s vital to be patient or calm. Autistic children may seem disconnected from other people’s feelings, but in reality, they are aware of them. If they sense nervousness or frustrations, they will pick up on it. Autism makes it hard to express it in words, but when you are relaxed, you help your child to stay calm. When you’re worried or even angry, your child knows that something is wrong and may become anxious themselves.
It may sound simple, but the best strategy to calming your child is to be calm, even in challenging times. They might not transmit it, but nothing is more calming than the calming and kind words of their caretaker.
The basics of emotion labeling
Labeling your child’s emotions is a powerful tool, especially when done in the present. By labeling, you are teaching your child that it’s possible to use words to describe the way you’re feeling. It avoids them from feeling stuck and lonely. Just labeling an emotion is a way to model and explain to your child to manage their emotional ups and downs. The best way to teach emotional management is through example, and as a caretaker, you will be their teacher.
Labeling doesn’t need to be a pre-planned activity. For example, if your child is upset because a toy has broken, you can get down to his level and say: “I see you are sad. Your toy is broken and that’s why you’re sad”. Depending on your child’s language skills, you can use short sentences or more complex sentences. The important thing is that you tell them that you understand how they feel.
You can also label your own emotions by telling them if you’re happy or sad. That will show your child that it is okay to feel sad or upset and that we all experience those feelings in our lives.