How to deal with meltdowns in toddlers

As educators, we are experienced in helping your little one navigate their emotions in the peak of a meltdown. Check out some of our tips and tricks for dealing with big feelings below in our latest blog...

Sometimes there is no telling when a meltdown will strike. While you think you can do everything in your power to avoid them, it’s also good to have some tools in your arsenal for managing them when they happen.

Meltdowns can begin as early as one or two when children start to feel frustration. This is the age when children are beginning to learn how to express their emotions and navigate social situations.

Emotional outbursts are perfectly normal, and are a way for children to express feelings they are unsure about or don't know how to deal with. They are a cry for help, trying to meet the needs they may not be able to verbalise.

At the height of a meltdown, parents must stay with their children to ensure they stay safe. Even though it's tough, it's essential to remain calm while your child is experiencing big feelings and reassure them you are there to help.

Look at our top tips to manage emotional outbursts with your child below!

Plan Ahead

Failing to plan is planning to fail! If you have an outing planned with your child where they may not be able to get what they want, make sure you discuss this with them. You may be going to a birthday party and don't want your child to have lollies. Role-playing before the outing and discussing your reasons with your child can ensure it does not end in tears.

When your child is feeling frustrated, you can talk to them about this and give them words to explain their big feelings. For example, when they are upset, you can say, 'I see you are frustrated, can I help you?'

If your child feels tired, hungry or thirsty, these may cause their feelings to be expressed in a less than desirable way. When you are out and about, it's best to be prepared with snacks, a water bottle, activities etc., to keep your little one happy and occupied.

From around the age of two, children begin to feel big emotions and learn to express these. Voicing their feelings may come out negatively, like an emotional outburst. Children learn to cope with these feelings and articulate themselves more positively as they mature, although some adults are still learning to appropriately manage their emotions too!

Top tips for dealing with big feelings

·       Look for the message behind the behaviour. Children who have re-occurring meltdowns are trying to have their needs met, not attention-seeking. They may be tired, hungry or thirsty OR they may be trying to exert control in a world that often does not give control to children!

·       Remember, big feelings are always acceptable – but negatively expressing those emotions isn’t acceptable in most situations.  

·       Try to acknowledge your child’s emotion and have some empathy for what they’re going through. The issue might seem tiny to you, but often feels insurmountable to them!

·       If you are upset, remove yourself from the situation (if you can) and calm down. Remember you are the adult, and do not get down onto their level.

·       In the height of a temper tantrum, stay with your child to ensure they stay safe.

·       If you are at a birthday party or event, assist your child in a safe, private space so they can express their feelings privately.

·       If your child is emotional, encourage them to take deep, controlled breaths. Breathing in to the count of five, holding for two and slowly breathing out to the count of five. If they are too young for this just hold them as much as they will let you, so they can feel your calmness and slow breathing.

·       Once your child is composed, help them to name their emotions so they can understand them. They may have been feeling frustrated, angry or sad, and give them strategies to manage these feelings next time.

·       Do not give into a negative outburst. If your child demands a toy or a lolly, do not give them what they seek. This will only give them negative reinforcement, and the behaviour will continue in the future.

·       Display empathy and understanding. You can help your child manage their emotions through seeing you being calm and understanding.

When your child is experiencing big emotions, try not to sweat it! Use these tools and suggestions to assist them in naming their feelings, calming down and learning from the situation for the future.

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