Meltdowns with children can just be brutal. Sure, children have temper tantrums but meltdown are something completely different. Meltdowns are when your child is so emotionally overcharged that they lose complete control over themselves.
During a temper tantrum, your child will respond to what you are saying. However, during meltdowns, your child is often unable to respond.
The single best way to manage meltdowns is to help your child learn how to manage their emotions before they lose emotional control. As the mom of a kid with Sensory Processing Disorder, who was prone to complete and utter meltdowns, I have learned how to help my kiddo help himself.
A Story of an Almost Meltdown
After six years of coming to gymnastics, I forgot my son’s shorts. For those who don’t have tactile defensive kids, wearing pants for sensory kids can be a serious issue. My son actually feels pained by regular pants and only wears sweatpants (which are also troublesome; however, we live where it snows so Vman has to wear some sort of pant).
When Vman realized I didn’t have shorts with me he shed true crocodile tears, but it didn’t evolve into a complete tornado meltdown. Rather than getting upset over him getting upset, I took a keep breath and kept my cool. I immediately told him I understood why he was upset. I explained I know how hard it is for him to wear pants and that wearing shorts to gymnastics is very important for him to feel comfortable enough to enjoy the class. By keeping calm and letting him know he wasn’t alone with his feelings, he was able to embrace being sad without act out.
We were too far away from home to go get a pair, so I immediately took Vman to the office where we searched the lost and found for an extra pair of shorts, but no luck. However, the office did have shorts they could sell us. Great! Vman could always use an additional pair of shorts anyway.
By keeping my cool, I was able to help Vman stay in control and find a solution. If we hadn’t found a pair of shorts for him to wear, he probably wouldn’t have been able to participate. That may seem extreme to some people who don’t have sensory challenges in their house, but sensory parents out there will understand that it can just be too much for their kids to handle.
Rethink How You Approach a Meltdown
In these moments, it’s important for us as parents to keep in mind that our children are not acting out or against us but rather the situation. The more we build tools to help our children control their reactions, the better they will be prepared to manage whatever comes their way.
Note I did not say for them to ignore their emotions. Emotions should be embraced. They are true and real. If you are sad, be sad. If you are mad, be mad. However, we have control over our outward behavior. We are not slaves to our emotions. We control our bodies. We control how we treat people. We control how we treat ourselves. Teach your child that the world is not something to fight but to embrace and work with. It will serve him well.
Years of therapy and hard work at home has helped Vman to develop the tools he needs to face many of the sensory challenges he has to deal with. Trust me, this didn’t happen overnight. But when a meltdown is coming on, my son knows that we are a team and will work together to figure it out what is wrong.
As parents, we have come to grips that we all make mistakes and just can’t avoid the meltdowns. How we handle the meltdowns helps define how our children should handle their meltdowns as well. It can be tough to stay calm during your child’s breakdown, especially when you deal with them day after day, often multiple times a day. But the more we display how we can stay calm and think about how to solve what’s facing us, the more we teach our children that they may not be able to control how something feels to them, but they can still control their reaction to it.
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