Teresa, an Early Years Consultant, with 25years experience and whom now specialises in young children’s physical, sensory & emotional development and it’s impact on behaviour and learning, shares her top tips for understanding, and dealing with, your child’s meltdowns.
Young children come with BIG emotions, it can be quite startling that something so explosive & dramatic can emit from such a small being, and when infrequent, you can navigate your way through. But what if it’s not?
What do you do if your child is experiencing ‘meltdowns’ on a regular basis?
What is a meltdown?
- It’s a cry of distress – a sign that your child is struggling to manage what’s happening around them.
- Often triggered by overwhelm – as a result of the situation you’re in, what’s being asked them, and how they’re currently feeling (usually a combination of all).
- It’s not an overreaction – they are completely consumed by their emotions and struggling that’s why they often look out of control.
- It’s not a behaviour – it’s not a choice, they’re not manipulating a situation to get their own way, they’re not being ‘naughty’.
- It is a feeling – it’s actually a combination of feelings, too many to cope with all at once.
How can you help your child during a meltdown?
During an outburst, your child can’t hear you. Coaxing or bribery isn’t going to work. In fact, you’ll be adding more onto an overloaded sensory system already struggling to cope. This can be hard, especially when out in public and you feel you must be seen to be ‘doing something about it’. Don’t worry. I’d like to reassure you that, although meltdowns can be highly emotive situations for everyone, it’s typical behaviour.*
Here are 5 key things you can do to support your child:
1. It starts with you. To regulate your child you need to co-regulate. Take a deep slow breath in for 5, hold for 5 and release for 5. This will regulate your feelings so they do not match the heightened state of your child.
2. Let them know you are there ‘I am here’ ‘You are safe’ and stay close.
3. Wait. Wait for them to begin to calm, and for them to notice you.
4. Acknowledge & name the feelings ‘You were really upset, I could see you were angry’ ‘Do you know why?
5. Reflect what they say ‘You didn’t want to leave the park. That made you cross. I can see that.’ ‘We have to go now, we can comeback again.’
Being consistent and gentle doesn’t mean giving in. Compassionate, loving boundaries give your child security.
It will pass and the tools you give them today will set them up to thrive in the future.
For more support you can join Teresa’s facebook group.
*If you suspect or have concerns about your child, please seek guidance from a medical professional.
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