Girl Having Argument With Mother At Candy Counter In Supermarket

If you’ve struggled with what to do when your kid has a tantrum, you’re not alone. Every parent at some point is faced with the difficult task of helping a child through a complex situation that is beyond the emotional capabilities of a young child. This article will explore the best techniques for helping a kid through a meltdown.

1. Set the foundation

Tantrums can feel like they pop up out of nowhere, but in reality there’s usually a build up to a child’s outburst of distress. We may never be privy to every trigger leading up to a meltdown due to our child’s limited ability to communicate, and that’s normal. What we can do, though, is set the stage for what a child can expect when he or she feels dysregulated.

A solid and open relationship with your children is the best foundation for addressing tantrums. When children feel that you are a secure place to go when they are upset, you’ve won half the battle. Encourage conversations where you both share emotions and with each chat you’ll foster the trust you need to handle a meltdown.

2. Don’t aggravate the situation with a strong response

Our children’s emotional state often reflects our own. When we’re stressed, our little ones can pick up on it. When we’re sad, kids can be extra gloomy. When we’re anxious, children feel scared. Being overwhelmed ourselves can make it extra difficult to handle a tantrum.

When you’re face to face with your kid’s tantrum and you don’t know what to do, put all your effort into responding calmly. Talk slowly, quietly and in an even tone. Don’t try to fake it either, build skills of your own to regulate your emotions and you’ll be a much more effective teacher.

3. Don’t try to solve the tantrum

Your first priority when a tantrum begins is not to solve the problem. The first priority should be to engage with your child and establish a state of calm. Children remember your responses to their behavior, and if a tantrum gets them what they want, they’ll keep having tantrums. If louder screaming and crying for longer gets you to cave, that sends the message that their behavior is effective, and it will continue.

Easier said than done, right? The best way to address tantrums where the behavior directed towards obtaining or avoiding something, is to take a neutral position. Use phrases like “hm, I’ll have to think about it” or “I’m glad you told me so we can add it to your birthday wish list.” Making empty promises can cause damage, too, so defer making a decision until the future.

4. Remember basic needs

If your child is throwing tantrums at the grocery store because they want you to buy them a snack, it may simply be a more dramatic way of saying “I’m hungry.” And how often is overtiredness the actual culprit of a meltdown? The odds are low that your child is going to be able to advocate for their needs when they are overwhelmed, too.

In these moments, being prepared can do you a huge favor. Carry snacks, keep a blanket in the car and remember to give your little one time to rest and escape stimulation for moments throughout the day. We all need breaks- you included. Taking care of your needs gets you in a routine of checking up on basic necessities for your whole family. 

5. Build coping skills

Navigating through the complex emotions of a meltdown is not easy for a child. Even adults need help learning skills to handle their emotions at times. Teaching tantrum coping skills is one way you can make the process easier for both you and your little one. 

Here are the best techniques for coping through tantrums. Try to teach them as a preventative measure and practice frequently. It will save you a hassle and some energy in the long-run.

  • Do breathing exercises
  • Go for a walk
  • Take a cool drink of water
  • Hum or sing a song
  • Look at happy pictures
  • Do stretches

6. Talk frequently

Kids need a lot of attention from their parents, caregivers and family. A kid having a meltdown is a kid asking for help, for an unmet need to be fulfilled. It can be difficult to discern what has been looked over when a parent is not having frequent check-ins with a child, so carving out time to invest in your relationship can cure outbursts and give you the relationship you want.

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