Updated: Feb 18, 2019
We've all had to deal with them, and they 'aint pretty! They're embarrassing. They're frustrating. They're dramatic and over the top. They take all of your patience, energy, and time. It's going to happen at some point- so what is the 'right way' to handle a meltdown? Every child is unique, so I thought I would give you a bank of strategies to use when your kiddo is starting to loose their cool.
The ultimate goal with these strategies is to help your child recover from their meltdown, minimize the degree of the meltdown, and overall decrease the frequency of meltdowns. These strategies are best put to use before a full blown meltdown.
Provide deep pressure through a nice big bear hug or a weighted blanket or vest. It is important to remember not to force or hold down your child, because it could back fire and escalate the situation. As you are holding your child, you may want to try rocking back and forth or side to side.
Refrain from talking things out during a meltdown. Your child is not in a position to listen, rationalize, or remember the rules. Their engine is running high and subsequently responding and acting irrationally.
Use a calm, neutral, and quiet voice when speaking to your child. I know- this one can be challenging! Remember to minimize conversation and keep it simple. You will also want to avoid arguing and criticizing too.
Breath deeply- this goes for both you and your child! Breathing deeply helps provide deep pressure in the chest and by doing so can help calm down your child.
Validate your child's feelings. This is very important! "I know you are upset" "That was scary" "I understand you are not happy".
Give your child some control over the situation by offering several choices to help them calm down. Your child may not be able to choose in the middle of a meltdown, so be prepared to choose for them.
Find a distraction to help decrease the length of a meltdown. So distractions could be a variety of fidgets, muscle work, or draw a picture.
Removing your child from the situation can also help them calm down and regain control. That might look like leaving a birthday party or soccer game to regroup in the car. Or leaving the classroom to go to a counselor's room to reset.
If you find yourself in a situation where your child is having a huge meltdown and these strategies are not helping, make sure they are safe and let them run out of steam on their own. Make sure they have privacy (in a safe space), use your calm voice, and patiently wait for them to cool off before you talk through the situation with them.
If you find yourself having to constantly deal with major meltdowns on a regular basis, you may want to work with an occupational therapist to develop specific strategies that work well with your child and to see if there are any other underlining problems contributing to these meltdowns. An OT can help develop a personalized plan for your child to minimize or decrease meltdowns and develop a sensory diet. So, keep these in mind the next time your child starts to wind out of control and reach out to me if you have any additional questions!