I just got off a call with a parent who said she worked with a therapist that said her son just needed to ‘get his emotions out’.
This child was stating he wished his brother would die, that at 9 years old asking his parents after his meltdowns subsided ‘why do you hate me’ and mom and dad were so exhausted that they were, (regrettably so, obviously)...
yelling when he would not follow through on the daily tasks with multiple warnings…
even when his siblings would do the same thing easily.
So, after trying many sticker charts, talks and lectures, these parents did what every dedicated parent would do– they sought professional help.
And this is what the therapist told them: “he’s emotionally healthy.”
Mom nearly fell out of her chair– and while she didn’t realize that she was working with a novice professional (the therapist was provisionally licensed) that honestly doesn’t matter- we hear this from parents ALL. THE. TIME. who work with professionals with every number of years experience under the sun.
Because when you’re unfamiliar with the HSC trait, you treat meltdown behavior like any other kid behavior: in some phase of ‘developmentally appropriate’ until proven otherwise.
But because this professional didn’t know what questions to ask, and what severity to assess, the parents never shared that the intensity, frequency, and duration of these meltdowns were absolutely outside of this child’s developmental range.
“He has meltdowns” for a 9 year old sounds much different than “my child has 45 minute meltdowns daily and screams, kicks and makes threats and this happens almost daily.”
This is the level of detail needed to assess whether a child is stuck in the meltdown cycle.
And that is literally just the beginning: because it is not developmentally appropriate for ANY child over the age of 4 to be having even weekly meltdowns.
Children ages 3-4 should not have daily meltdowns. So, for 5 EXTRA years this family has been suffering.
And NO ONE told them it wasn’t to be expected.
This is the thing that really gets my gullet about the mental health field.
Everything is viewed in ‘it depends’ contextual view… so the parents who are yelling are to blame, or the stress of school creates the need to get the kid’s emotions ‘out’... and nothing ever changes because of the ignorance of the HSC trait in the mental health industry.
Temperament is not reviewed in mental health advanced degrees: whether a professional is a child therapist, an art therapist, a play therapist, a psychologist, a licensed counselor, a school counselor, a social worker, a ‘behavioral therapist’ or an occupational therapist.
NONE of these professional education paths review Sensory Processing Sensitivity.
I needed 5 years of professional experience and advanced, specialist training that cost thousands of dollars to even learn about the trait.
That means I had to dive into a specialty I wanted and THEN learn what caused chronic self-harm and suicidal thoughts in adolescents.
Does that sound backwards?
But it’s the way the industry works: teach the basics, let them practice on real people, and then get them to understand those real people enough to make a lasting difference…
but make sure to do that weekly and without accountability outside of the session…
because then you’d be crossing a boundary not letting the client live their lives and decide to feel better on their own terms.
And meanwhile the child stuck in the meltdown cycle is subject to you, the parent, EXHAUSTED and how much stamina you can maintain for MONTHS hanging on the thread of a strategy the therapist gave you 5 sessions (weeks) ago.
It’s why I stopped doing it this way.
It’s not just inefficient, it’s downright damaging to the sensitive child and you, the parent.
Research shows HSCs learn best through their parents.
Individual contact with an HSC by a professional DOES NOT LEAD to emotional change.
Might lead to emotional bandaids on something that needs surgery- so you feel a little “better” – but did it fix the problem?
Your 8 year old doesn't have meltdowns but still can't walk upstairs unescorted for fear of the boogie man?
You’re still in the cycle. Just playing whack-a-mole.
So, what’s next?
You need to break the cycle from the root: change your relationship with your child.
Create an avenue for your child to receive constructive feedback without criticism or perfectionism.
Playfully engage in learning new skills.
And book a call with our team to understand if this plan is the right one for you.
Book a call with my team today: https://www.megghanthompsoncoaching.com/talk
For families with high school aged teens: https://www.megghanthompsoncoaching.com/teentalk