3 Tips to Minimize Behaviour Meltdowns!
Parenting a child who displays intense, dysregulated emotions can be challenging and exhausting. The smallest inconsistency, conflict, or problem can result in a meltdown at world war III proportions – true behaviour meltdowns! Addressing these difficulties in children requires a multi-faceted approach, but these three tips will get you started!
- Be preventative: Take a moment to think about your child and the situations that they struggle with. Does your child balk at transitions? Do they explode under pressure? Can they handle being told “no”? Identifying the areas that your child struggles with is the first step in identifying what you can do to prevent the problem. Ideally, you want your approach to be at least 75% preventative and proactive and only 25% reactive. If your child struggles to transition, what can you do to make that easier for them? If they explode under pressure, how can you help to reduce the pressure (or help them learn to manage it)? What can you do to reduce that trigger? Be creative, being preventative often means thinking outside the box, and helping your child overcome the hurdles in the road to their successful management of emotions.
- Empathize: To empathize means to understand, appreciate and recognize the feelings your child is experiencing – even if they seem extreme or uncalled for. Empathy leads to compassion, and feeling compassion for your child when they are upset or in crisis will help to reduce their presenting behavior. In order to empathize with your child, you must first understand why they are upset. You can achieve this by reflecting to your child, “you seem upset that….” Or “It looks like it’s really bothering you that…” Often a child will either agree or disagree with your statement. This can lead to some more dialogue and increased understanding of what your child is feeling in that moment. Often when children feel understood and listened to, no matter how silly their complaint seems, they are more likely to calm down quicker. Try putting yourself in your child’s shoes. Think about how difficult it must be to feel that upset about something (no matter what it is). Try to understand their perspective. Demonstrate empathy not just with your words but with your actions.
- Be Calm: I can almost guarantee that yelling, threatening and naming all the consequences in the world is not going to change the behaviour your child is presenting in the moment. Stay calm. The goal when your child is escalated is to calm them down. Consequences and changing behaviour can occur when the situation is settled. Think about solving the problem with your child. What can be done to improve the moment, right now? Is it a hug? A glass of water? Standing by quietly? Talking in a soothing manner? Giving clear directions? This may be different for every situation, but keep in mind the goal is to stay calm and in control to help calm the situation down. Your child needs you to model this, and provide them the skills and support they need to do this effectively. Everyone loses their cool once in a while, and it’s only to be expected in stressful situations. Be aware of your own limits and the signs that you are reaching your capacity to stay calm. Consider seeking support from a partner to deal with the behaviour for a while; take a moment to yourself in the washroom; zone out if you need to, but try to remain calm and in control of yourself.
Next time your child has an outburst, consider using these tips to help you through. While they won’t solve the problem in its entirety, they will assist in managing meltdowns. Stay tuned for more tips in our managing meltdowns series, or visit our webpage for more information on how we can help. www.familykinnections.ca