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>Do You Ever Choose Not To Intervene?

May 14, 2011

>This is a question for my experienced therapeutic parenting friends: do you ever just choose not to intervene?

I should attach qualifiers. Hope is not currently in a phase where melt-downs are rages. These are more like a typical two year old tantrum (except of course that she is six). And unlike my neurologically typical two year olds, she can go on for 20-30 minutes before she gets tired and winds down. But she is often capable of pulling herself out of it on her own right now and when she isn’t I can tell from the first cry which way this one is going to go.

So if she’s in a safe place like her room, and it isn’t a harm-myself or break-something or harm-someone else level event, am I always obligated to go with her, stay with her, and help her pull herself together faster than she can if I leave her alone?

What I’m up against is the feeling that the rest of the family gets shorted if every time Hope has an emotional emergency, I drop everything and therapeutically intervene. I don’t mind helping Hope when I can see from the chain of events leading up to the melt-down that she was led there by circumstances beyond her control, beyond her ability to cope.

But I sense that for Hope (I’m sure this one of those things that can be different from child to child with FASD) sometimes her melt-downs are some what manipulative: an attempt to get her own way. Like last Sunday she decided she didn’t want to go to church and spent the whole 30 minute ride kicking the seat in front of her and screaming, “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go to church!” But I could tell from the tone of her voice that it was not a nuclear-level meltdown and I had a very strong hunch that by the time we parked the car in the lot, she’d be fine. That’s exactly what happened. She did fine in Sunday School.

(edited to add: Her stated reason for not wanting to go to church was because she wanted to watch TV.)

She has similar meltdowns sometimes at home. When I have a sense that the emotional outburst is more about not getting her way (in a kind of typical-kid sense, although her reactions are always bigger) is it harmful to just let her go to her room (often, she takes herself there) and let her work it out? I can’t detect any negative effects of doing this, except that she rejoins us a little subdued and sucking on her thumb. (So obviously it takes something out of her.)

I’ve often had the impression that it has the same effect as a thunderstorm on a gloomy day. When we finally get the thunder and lightening out of the way, the air clears. Her brain is back on track and things are fine relationally.

As a long-term thing, it seems positive that sometimes she can self-sooth (seems to be learning). So in these cases (where I sense she can do it if given some space) am I actually slowing her learning curve by intervening and helping her out? Or am I causing long-term damage by letting her dwell in those feelings for 30 minutes if by intervening we can restore equilibrium in 10?

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