Handling meltdowns

Let’s understand the world from a toddler’s perspective:

  1.  They can see many attractive things but cannot reach them all
  2.  They are held back from doing certain ‘interesting’ things (seemingly interesting for them)
  3.  They completely depend on the adults around for practically everything
  4.  They have very little means of effectively communicating with these adults
  5.  If they feel discomfort, they cannot express what’s happening and where in their bodies
  6.  They may be picked up moved at any time

We can go on painting this picture but first let’s begin to put ourselves in their little shoes.  What would you feel? Helplessness? Frustration? Uncertainty? Would there be valid reasons for meltdowns?

When a child has a meltdown for whatever reason, it’s absolutely necessary to remind ourselves that the reason may seem trivial for an adult but for the child it is a significant thing and the child is giving a perfectly proportionate reaction to how the child is FEELING at that time.

It’s also true that we naturally feel the urge to make it stop. You see, we are wired to strongly want to do things to put the child out of their discomfort.  But asking the child to stop reacting or to stop crying is asking them to figure out on their own how to suppress what they are really feeling. What can we do to make it a little easier for them in these moments (And definitely not make it harder), making sure that they do not suppress their feelings at the same time?

When your child is undergoing a meltdown, follow these steps:

  1. Keep away whatever you are doing immediately and be with your child and validate
    the seriousness of the child’s problem (even if you don’t understand it at that
  2. Remind yourself to be patient and give your child as much time as they need to
    regulate themselves
  3. Hold your toddler (in whatever way the child allows you to) warmly and gently
  4. Assure them verbally that you are here for them (avoid asking them to stop crying
    and avoid any other conversation)
  5. Breathe deep breaths and be with your child through that difficult experience (more
    about co-regulation in upcoming posts)
  6. After the child is calm, ask them if they are feeling calm (this check-in helps building
    self-awareness for the child)
  7. If you feel the need to explain something related to the meltdown, do it after the child
    has completely calmed down. (make sure what you say doesn’t induce guilt/shame in
    any way)

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