Monday, 19 November 2012

Six Simple Tips for Managing Children’s Meltdowns

There are times when even well-behaved children feel overwhelmed and find it hard to cope with strong feelings. The reason for that can be cognitive or sensory overload, anxiety, accumulation of unexpressed emotions, fatigue, hunger, etc. If an additional frustration or demand is placed upon already stressed out child, the result can be a full-blown, highly emotional outburst that can send a parent into the depths of helplessness and despair. Although occasional meltdowns happen to many children and are usually well managed by the parents, frequent outbursts that are typical of children with ADHD, ODD, Autism, Language Delay, Sensory Integration Disorder and Learning Disabilities are highly disturbing and exhausting for both the parents and the child. It is especially upsetting for parents when this happens in a public place. It is important to understand that meltdowns are developmentally normal and happen in the life of almost every child. However, parental reaction is very important as it determines whether the tantrums will become more frequent and what the child is going to learn from them.
It is important to understand the original reason for the tantrum and try to address it. Children may melt down for two primary reasons. First, it happens if acting out can get them what they want really fast. In this case, the child throws a fit whenever they want something that the parents are not ready to provide or does not want to do something that a parent requests. If tantrum was effective for them in the past they will use it again and again. Second, more common situation is that a child has not learned how to cope with his / her feelings of frustration and anger that flood him and cause to lose control. In this case, children may yell, shout offensive words to their parents, throw things and hurt themselves or others. When the storm is over, the child usually feels sad and sincerely apologetic. Of course, the long-term goal is to teach the child how to understand and express his/ her feelings in more effective ways.
This takes time and patience. In the meantime, the following simple strategies will help parents to prepare for, manage and resolve these situations more effectively.

TIP #1: Agree on a plan
Before going to the grocery store or the video-game parlor, ask your child what would calm him down if he gets upset. If he does have an episode, you will have a plan because your child has delivered it to you. His ownership of it should pretty much guarantee that he will cooperate with your enforcing it.
TIP #2: Acknowledge their anguish
Let them know you understand what they are going through. In a calm voice, tell your child, “I know you’re disappointed that you didn’t find the toy you wanted” or “I know you’re angry because your friends didn’t ask you to play.” Then ask your child to rate her disappointment or anger on a scale of 1 to 10. This gives you an idea of the severity of the problem, without having to nag or repeat what you say.
TIP #3: Set the bar
Explain to him that the clock is running. You can say, "Let’s see how fast you can calm yourself down, so we can get on with the rest of our day" or "Even though you’re upset, you need to get in control, so we can continue shopping."
TIP #4: Snuff out the emotion
Ask your child to imagine that there is a candle painted on her palm. Then have her hold her hand with her palm facing toward her face, and ask her to blow out the imaginary flame. Deep breathing settles out-of-control children. An alternative: Keep a balloon or two in your purse and ask her to blow them up.
TIP #5: Get punchy
If you’re at home during a meltdown, ask your child to punch a pillow, cushion, or another soft, safe object. Pillow fights, ripping up newspapers, or squeezing a ball can short-circuit a meltdown.
TIP #6: Press the right button
Have your child pretend that she is holding a remote control in her hand. Ask her to press the button that turns down her emotions.


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