Seeing your child having a meltdown can be extremely difficult. I don’t like the terms temper tantrum or terrible two’s or three’s. How could I label an entire year, half of my child’s life time as terrible??? A meltdown, an overflow of emotions can come in any age. Depending on the development stage and the hormone level, it might be more intense in certain ages.The earlier you start finding your way through the jungle of emotions the better for all of you. When working with your child through the emotions at age 2 or 3 or even earlier you will set a great base for the future. It will help you through the years with challenging development stages like 6-8 or the teenage years.
But don’t worry you will get heaps of chances to find your way with your child.
Let’s remember each child is different and each parent is different, so there can’t be the one and only way to handle things. But, When your child is having a meltdown you also have to deal with your own emotions and feelings which will be triggered and might bring up anger. It can be heartbreaking to see your child going through a difficult meltdown and in addition you might have people watching you or even telling you all the things you should do. It can be embarrassing when others watch, they might think you are a bad parent if you don’t handle the situation in a perfect way. They might think you have raised a horrible child.
Maybe you have heard comments like: ‘Children can be seen but should not been heard.’ or ‘They need to learn who is the boss.’ and ‘Don’t let them dance on your nose.’ These all indicate that children are playing a meltdown to get their way, to manipulate their parents. However when I observed my you young toddler child having a meltdown I did not see a horrible manipulating child, I saw a valuable little being who was overwhelmed with all the emotions and instead of me yelling at her, she needed guidance on how to deal with all these strange emotions.
I found EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) a wonderful way of working your way out of a meltdown. For your child and yourself. It is easy to learn and it helps in so many ways.
What to do when my child has a meltdown?
1. Take your child out of the scene If possible take your child out of the scene. That makes it a lot easier for both of you, if you don’t have the feeling you and your parenting style is being watched.
When my child was around 1,5 years old she had a meltdown in a store. I can’t remember what is was about, but she was really disturbed. She screamed and yelled. I carried her, while she was kicking, to a safe corner and sat down with her. I was holding her tight in my arms and tugged her in with my legs until she calmed down. While sitting with her in the corner, I totally blocked out all the other people. I didn’t care if they were watching us or not. If we’re at someones house and she had a meltdown, I took her into another room. No need to deal with it in front of everyone.
2. Observe Instead of yelling at my child I look at her and observe what is going on. When I do this, my heart softens immediately. I can see that she is overwhelmed with emotions and that she needs to find a way to let it out.
And to be honest, I have to say most of the times when it happens, there were a few challenging days prior. Maybe we were doing too much or she had to witness something that upsets her. Never underestimate the little things. When I realize that she was holding it back, while she had to, that she was functioning while she had to, until there is no way to hold it back any longer and it has to be let out, I am actually amazed. The gratitude I feel for her being so great during the challenging time prior, totally changes my own attitude and I can be more understanding.
If your child has a meltdown because she can’t get something, it still helps you to observes. Often there is deeper cause behind the crying.
3. Stay calm Staying calm yourself might be the hardest but also the most important part. Most of the times we experienced a meltdown was when I didn’t feel so great myself. I am a bit older so of course I try to cover it up. But a child senses the emotions of a parent. Part of the meltdown might be the emotions your child is picking up from YOU.
Try to stay calm anyway and think of what sign you want to send out. When you get loud and yell at your child or even hit your child you send the message that anger has to be fought with anger or even worse with violence. That will only start a bad cycle that will make it worse with each meltdown you experience. Plus that will set the course how your child will handle difficult situations herself in the future.
4. Express your own feelings and Tap How to stay calm when you’re overwhelmed yourself? How can you deal with your child’s anger and overwhelming emotions when you feel yourself all this crazy emotions?
I talk about it. I sit down and say loud how I feel and I start tapping on it (EFT-Emotional Freedom Technique is a great way to deal with overwhelming emotions). I say loud: I feel so upset. I don’t know how to handle this situation. It makes me so so angry. I just want to scream and yell.
Note: I do not say this to make my child understand me in the middle of her own breakdown. I say it loud to honour my own feelings in this moment. Instead of screaming I say that I have the feeling to scream. By accepting it and tapping on it I calm down very quickly. And the effect it has on my child is amazing, she stops and looks at me. When I see her watching me I include her as well: ‘I can see that you are really upset. I understand that feeling, I also feel so upset. I am not upset with you I just have to find a way to regulate my own feelings.’
The message I want to send is, that I honour my feelings and I want my child to honour her feelings as well. We are both ok, even if we don’t know all the time how to deal with overwhelming emotions. Under no circumstances I want to put a guilt trip on her.
After I calm myself down, I begin to surrogate tap for my child. I ask her if she can join me. If she agrees perfect. Sometimes she doesn’t want to tap by herself so she lets me tap on her. And other times she doesn’t want it at all, so I tap on me for her.
Tapping is a great way to handle a meltdown.
5. Offer a hug After I calmed myself down, I just sit and wait till my child calms down as well. I also offer her a hug. Since she is used to this procedure she usually comes when she is ready and asked for her hug and wants being hold.
A hug sends the message: You are ok, even with that meltdown, and I love you no matter what.
6. Talking about what happen We usually talk about what had happen. What had caused the meltdown. How did we both react and how we’d wished we had reacted. How could we handle a situation like this the next time? It’s like the old saying: After the meltdown is before the meltdown.
7. Find your own way
I remember when my child was very small and getting wild I said: ‘Not with me, with me you are not acting like this.’ I listen to what i had said and knew immediately that these were not my own words. So I changed it. ‘Well, if you act like this, better with me, I love you and I will help you to find a way to deal with it.’ Again, this is not to make a baby understand grown-up talk, these things I say out loud are mainly for myself to recognize myself and to find out what kind of parent I want to be.
And that is what I believe good parents are doing on a regular base, asking themselves what kind of parent do I want to be? The good advices we’re given from others are not always match with our personality. Often we use words, that come from our sub-consciousness mind but do not belong to us. I believe it is a good thing to observe ourselves and to do the aftermath. Therefore I believe it is very helpful to talk with your child about what had happen.
What I personally don’t like to do:
1. Sending my child away “Go to your room.” Well, while travelling you have limited options. But it never felt right to me to make a child’s room to her/his punishment space.
I also found that the last thing my child wants when being in this overwhelming space, is being alone. I can see that she is scared. I wouldn’t want to be alone when being scared and screaming because I don’t know how to handle a situation. This is the time a child needs guidance not being send away to deal with it by itself.
2. Ignoring my child
When I watch and observe my child, I can see clearly that there is a lot going on that has triggered her to have a meltdown. How could I possibly let her alone with all this overwhelming feelings? Isn’t that my job as a parent to help her through this?
Sometimes it just means that I sit with her. Children learn fast, so it might be a way to get attention. After all negative attention is better then no attention. Therefore you observe. If it is an attention issue, you know what to work on…after the meltdown. During a meltdown, there is probably not much common sense available.
3. Saying: I love you, but… When you love there is no BUT. The but takes the love away. It puts conditions on the love. So instead I say: ‘I love you AND…’ Fill the blank with whatever you want to say.
Sending you and your child much love <3
Please leave a comment and share your experience. How to you help your child through a meltdown?
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