In my previous blog post, I discussed the difference between tantrums and meltdowns. Seeing that tantrums and meltdowns are different, the way we respond to them is also going to be different. Below I discuss some strategies that may help you respond to your child when they are having a tantrum or meltdown.
- Empathise with your child. Take the time to try to understand what is happening for your child and why they might be feeling that way. While the trigger of a child’s tantrum might seem trivial to an adult (e.g., not getting to eat a lolly), it is important to them.
- Label and validate how your child is feeling. By doing this, you are helping your child use words to describe how they are feeling, as well as, increasing their knowledge of emotions. For example, you might say something like, “I can see you are feeling angry because we have to leave the park.”
- Create clear boundaries on behaviours. It is important that children know that all feelings and wishes are acceptable; however, some behaviours are not okay (e.g., kicking and hitting others).
- Create a calm space. This can be an area in your home for your child to go to when they are experiencing a tantrum. Going to the calm space should not be used as a punishment but as a way to help your child calm down. Whilst in the calm space, your child can sit in close proximity to you while engaging in calming techniques (e.g., taking deep breaths, squeezing a stress ball, or listen to calming music).
- Take a deep breath to stay calm. By remaining calm in these situations, you are modelling to your child how to regulate their emotional and behavioural reactions.
- Identify and address the triggers of your child’s meltdown. If you know your child’s triggers (e.g., noise, lights, or change in routine) you can avoid the trigger and/or teach your child coping mechanisms.
- Recognise what your child looks like when the meltdown is building up. By understanding the nature of your child’s meltdowns, you can intervene early to help calm them down.
- Ensure everyone is safe. This is particularly important as the cognitive processes become impaired during a meltdown. This means that a child may become unaware of dangers during a meltdown.
- Reduce anything that caused the trigger, as well as, anything that could act as a secondary trigger. This may include leaving the area, going to a quiet and calm space (as described above), dimming the lights, or reducing noise.
- Speak in a calm manner using short phrases. Avoid shouting and/or asking questions as this can act as a secondary trigger to the meltdown.
Responding to tantrums and meltdowns can be difficult. If you would like further support regarding tantrums and/or meltdowns, please contact Hopscotch and Harmony on 03 9741 5222 to book in an appointment with one of our psychologists.
Sarah Gatt is a Hopscotch and Harmony Psychologist passionate about providing early intervention services to young children in order to help aid their development and reach their full potential. She creates a warm and safe therapeutic environment for children, by providing therapy in a creative and individualised manner. Sarah consults from our Werribee and Williamstown practices.