Top tips for avoiding meltdown with your child

Children having a meltdown or whatever you like to call it.  In our house, it was a strop, a curly or a wobbler!  This well known TV advert demonstrates it well!

If you’ve ever witnessed a meltdown, you may have thought to yourself: ‘Thank God that’s not mine!’  Or you may have also felt the pain of the parent coaxing and pleading with their child to stop.  I’ve seen frustrated Mums dragging the meltdown kid by the hand to a quiet a corner.  Kicking and screaming, the child is out of control and the Mum……mmm well yes the Mum has transformed into a ventriloquist clinging desperately to her dignity and uttering : ‘Stop showing me up!  Do that again and you will go and sit in the car!”  Exhausting.

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Nothing gets through during meltdown

Whilst your child is having a meltdown, they are completely zoned out.  Often they cannot hear you or process what is going on.  Their emotions are too big for them and they need to know that you can hold them.  If you reason or plead with them, you are entering into their drama.  This fuels the meltdown and as hard as it may be, keeping your cool will help put out flames.  I find what helps me  is to remind myself that I am the adult and whatever is going on with the child, I must hold their emotions, protect them, help them to feel safe and secure.  I will admit, it can be very tempting, especially when in public to give in and to end it.  If you do this, you are not helping.

Awareness is the first step to change

As a parent, you know your child well.  You are likely to spot the signs of  meltdown before the meltdown occurs.  In my job as a Nanny, I notice sleepy cues with babies – rubbing eyes, yawning, itching ears, not being able to support themselves so well.  If we can spot the signs, it makes life much easier.  As adults, we will be much more aware of what is happening in our bodies when we are heading for meltdown.  I can feel a tightening in my chest and tummy.  My jaw clenches and I breath heavily through my nostril (which are flaring – atttractive!).  Hopefully you will never get to see me looking like that!

What ways do you deal with your child when they are having a meltdown?  I’ve thought of some other ways that I’ve seen or used myself:

Distraction – works for younger children whilst they are in full meltdown mode.  Pointing at something, switching on the TV, singing a song, asking if they want to play.

Validation – even if you don’t agree with them, reflect back to them their feelings.  You will be surprised that when you name their feelings for them, that they stop.   You she opposite is to tell them to stop crying, shouting, screaming (fill in the blank as appropriate) and if somebody said that to you while you were having a meltdown, would you stop?  Mmmm I didn’t think so 🙂

Laughter –  is even more important, since it vents anxiety and creates more oxytocin, the bonding hormone.  When you are laughing you can’t have a meltdown.  This may not work for all children and it will depend how far into their meltdown they are.

Rough Housing like other young mammals, when kids “play” fight, they learn to manage aggression, which makes them less likely to lash out when they’re angry. Read more here……..

Attention & Love – are your child’s love tanks full up?  Have you been separated from them all day?  Have you spent quality time together.  You can find out how your child likes to be loved and more about love languages here

stop signA new self care tool: HALT

So recently, a friend of mine told me about H.A.L.T.  This is a technique used in recovery from addiction, although I think it can work for all us too.  HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired.  In recovery from addiction if one of these physical or emotional needs is not met, then the addict is vulnerable for a relapse.   Let’s have a look at how this could help us spot the meltdown signs and work for our children.

1.  Hungry this isn’t just about satisfying our appetite.  It’s also about satisfying our emotions so we are not starved of love, affection, time, attention, understanding, comfort etc.  It’s important to make sure that as well as taking care of our children’s basic physical needs, that we also help with their emotions.  They can’t always do it for themselves.  Do they need  food or water or do they need a hug or somebody to be with or somebody to talk to?

2.  Angry this one is a little tougher as many of us are frightened of anger or have been taught to suppress it.   That type of ‘Nobody likes an angry person or wants to be dealing with that face!” can lead to illness.  It’s about expressing it in a healthy way – screaming in an open field, scribbling until we make holes in the paper, punching pillows until it has gone.  Like all emotions, anger is an energy passing through our bodies.  Something that can also help us feel less angry is to think about something else and disconnect from where we are.  Deep breaths will help remove the physical tension in the body.  When we are calmer, we can then address what has made us angry with somebody we trust and who understands.  We may even work towards finding a strategy or an alternative to what has made us angry.  Anger channelled and used in the right way is very empowering.

3.  Lonely As important as it is to enjoy our own company and be at ease with who we are, it is also important to be around people.  The right type of people that makes us feel good.  It’s sad if you’ve ever been in a room full of people and felt isolated and alone. Learning to ask for help when you need it and reaching out is a healthy response to taking care of your own needs.  You want this for your children too.

4.  Tired I have known lots of children who fight their tiredness.  Their little eyes are closing and they jolt themselves awake. They don’t want to miss out on all the magic of life.  Sleep is vitally for our well-being ; our physical  mental and spiritual growth needs sleep and enough of it.  This varies from person to person.  If I don’t get my 8 hours a night, I’m Mrs Grumpy Pants.  Tired can also be about feeling overwhelmed with life and taking on too much.  Nowadays, children have lots of activities and commitments in their lives in and out of school.  Getting that balance so they are getting some quiet or downtime is very important.  This includes not permanently being wired up to a gaming device.  That only stimulates the brain.  It’s like looking at your phone before you go to sleep.  Have you noticed how it takes you longer to drop off?

So next time we see our child starting to rev up or we feel a meltdown coming on, we need to remember this helpful acronym HALT.   Or for ourselves when we are getting a bit snappy or intolerant of our children’s noise levels, ask ourselves what is it that we need?

Image credits © with thanks to http://www.sxc.hu

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