Managing childhood meltdowns is one of the top skills a parent can learn. Read through these tips to help put a strategy in place before the next one hits.
Sometimes tantrums happen like clockwork; you can see the storm clouds gathering on the horizon coming towards you like a hurricane. The result is screaming,crying, hitting and parents left feeling helpless to know what to do.
In the face of such anger and frustration, it can be hard to keep yourself calm and not feel like your child is deliberately provoking you. Child psychiatrists say
that it’s important to think of meltdowns or tantrums as incidences of high anxiety, rather than bad behaviour. For example, if your child routinely has a meltdown when you pick them up from school, bear in mind that they have been learning all day and could be overstimulated. The emotional sight of mum or dad at the school gates could be enough to tip them over the edge.
It’s essential that parents, as well as children, develop skills in calming themselves so they can help their children learn to regulate their behaviour. Here are some quick tips to help both you and your child when the storm is about to hit.
Count to ten
Why it works for your child - Calmly and slowly counting to ten is a great way to signal that behaviour is unacceptable without launching into a lecture, and also gives the child a structured amount of time to transition from one response to another.
Why it works for you - the act of counting to ten has a calming effect that slows down your heart rate and gives you time to consider your options.
Why it works for your child - when a tantrum is brewing, whipping out some crayons or paints could help distract them enough to forget that they’re upset. It’s also a creative outlet for their frustration.
Why it works for you - Drawing with your child will give you something to do together, steering you both out of a combative situation to more collaborative activity.
Choose your words carefully
Why it works for your child - Although logically there is no reason that your child should be having a meltdown, trying to reason with an emotional child probably won’t get you very far. Instead, give them the words for why they feel this way, and acknowledge how they feel. For example - “I know you don’t want to leave” instead of “we have to leave right now, or we’ll be late”.
Why it works for you – Trying to reason with a child during a meltdown is very frustrating and so naming feelings is a great way to stop your own frustration from boiling over.
Why it works for your child - teaching your child some simple breathing techniques during a calm moment could help even smaller children to self-regulate their emotions. Being taught to breathe deeply whenever they feel hot, itchy and angry can counteract a tantrum.
Why it works for you - Meditative breathing techniques are an invaluable tool for any parent - dealing with a meltdown throws your nervous system into crisis mode. Deep breathing will allow you to think more clearly.
Tantrums are a regular part of development. Children navigating through the world often find themselves overwhelmed by information, but, as they get older, most children will grow out of these rages. Using the techniques above will help you and your child learn crucial emotional self-regulation skills.
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Disclaimer: This article does not give professional advice. The contents constitute general information of a summary nature of interest and relevance at the time of publication. You should not rely on the contents as professional advice but should seek, formal advice in particular matters relevant to your particular situation