Expect these – it is OK!
The first thing to say is that these are normal, to be expected and nearly always happen at the most inconvenient times when you can look like the worst parent in the world.
The classic is the toddler glued to the floor of the supermarket, bellowing and screaming and blocking the whole aisle.
So part of the difficulty of meltdowns is that it makes parents feel bad, and there is usually someone around who will helpfully say “tut” or frown.
What can we do?
Don’t worry. Toddlers are growing the parts of their brains that do self-control and managing strong feelings. For some time, though, it will all get too much and you have a tantrum or a meltdown.
Here are some ways to prevent these so far as possible:
And, when a meltdown happens, here are some ideas for what to do
- keep calm. it will pass, even if it feels like for ever
- your child needs a bit of space, but also to know you are there. Talk gently about what’s happening, what you might do next, what might make things better – and offer gentle touch if your child can accept it.
- Sometimes what children really want is to be held and contained, so do get on the ground and cuddle if that works
- try to talk about things being difficult, rather than your child being bad – “Is it all too much today?” rather than “Stop being silly”
- if you are holding up the traffic, it is quite ok to pick your child up and take them somewhere else. Talk calmly while you do this, let them know why – “look it’s nice on this bench and we won’t be in the way”
- sometimes a distraction (not a bribe) will help, sometimes you have to wait it out
Most children are distressed after a meltdown – your child will need your love and cuddles – rage usually becomes fear and sorrow quite quickly
Think a bit about what was happening, what might have triggered it, so you know for next time. Could be too long in the supermarket, hungry, tired, missing a toy …?