Meltdowns, tantrums, rages, no matter what you call them, can be challenging for parents. At the moment when your child has a meltdown, it's hard to know what to do, particularly if you're out in public and have to deal with public scrutiny.
Meltdowns can be a symptom of deep stress or a child's inability to cope with life changes. Therefore, it is crucial that, as a parent, you know how to identify these symptoms and respond accordingly.
Keep in mind that distressed children tend to:
- have limited awareness of the aspects of their surrounding
- have increased focus on the seemingly trivial aspects of their surrounding
- Process very little of what is said
- be at a high risk of inflicting self-harm due to impaired reasoning abilities
- be at an increased risk of being harmed by others due to misunderstanding of their behavior
- exhibit an instinctual fear, flight, or freeze response of self-preservation by becoming combative if forcefully restrained.
Like most things parenting, there are no absolutes when it comes to emotions. However, preparation can help you when your child explodes. One way to respond to meltdowns is through this 6-point action plan abbreviated as S.C.A.R.E.D.
Try and remain composed. Use concrete and descriptive words instead of evaluative to help the kid better express their feelings. You can do this by assessing what has happened while talking in a strong, calm, and reassuring way.
Create a safe environment
The initial focus should always be to provide an environment that is safe and secure. You can do this by removing the unwanted stimulation and social pressure from the situation. This will provide a safe environment for the child. Try not to leave the child alone and do not restrain them as this will worsen the situation.
Affirm the situation
When responding to a meltdown, provide validation of effect and knowledge that the child is doing their best to resolve it. To affirm, you can refer to the child by name and acknowledge their fear. Avoid unnecessary questions.
An individual's place of comfort is far more likely to be found in routines. This means that you should not attempt to interfere with harmless patterns like repetitive statements and walk-in figure eights; instead, reflect on their behavior and perception with encouragement. Offer assurance, and after the child has recovered, help them repair the situation.
Try to understand things from your child's perspective. Without humiliation or shame, educate them about the effects of their behaviour on others. Acknowledge their fear and assure them that you are there to support them.
Develop an intervention strategy
Lastly, you have to develop a plan that will help you minimise the frequency, duration, intensity, and negative outcomes of a meltdown in your child. Here, generic techniques won't help. Moreover, do not develop a strategy without consulting with your child.
The S.C.A.R.E.D strategy is effective on all children. So, the next time your boy or girl is having a day, you know what to do. Keeping track of meltdowns can help you find the root causes by identifying patterns and triggers.