by Judy Chaney

Imagine that you’re shopping or running errands and something in your child snaps. All of a sudden, they’ve dropped to the floor, yelling and crying about something you can’t understand. They are in full meltdown mode. Don’t panic! Every parent has been there and all kids have them. Sometimes, meltdowns are impossible to avoid. Your child may be too tired, hungry or overstimulated but it’s usually a guessing game of what to do next. Here are some ways to survive your child’s meltdown:

  1. Stay calm and be patient – This is not always as easy as it sounds. Count to 10 or have your child count to 10 with you. Take some deep breaths and don’t get mad at your child. Remember that their meltdown isn’t a product of your parenting.
  2. Identify and remove the triggers – If you know your child is going to be hungry soon, bring a snack. If you’ve been very busy for a few days and haven’t had one day to relax, try to reschedule the trip to the zoo or that playdate. Kids need to have downtime too. They may also be having a meltdown from overstimulating sounds or too much going on around them. If this is the case, it may be time to head home and try again another day.
  3. Play a game – When children are having a meltdown, they are using the emotional part of their brain. Activate the logical part of the brain by asking your child to find a color, shape or letter. Older kids can do a math problem. This doesn’t always work if the meltdown has progressed too far, but if you catch it early enough, it can save you from the worst of it.
  4. Distract your child – Point out things to look at from the window or cart. Bring a toy they haven’t played with in a while or keep their favorite toy in your purse. Hide a small object in your hand and see if they can pick which hand the toy is in.
  5. Be silly – Make a silly face at your child, march around singing or walk like a penguin. Many times they can’t help but to laugh or walk funny too.
  6. Relax – Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Put your child to bed and pop open a bottle for a glass of wine or grab some chocolate and relax! It’s much harder to handle the meltdowns when you are tired or stressed, so don’t forget to unwind occasionally.

Remember to acknowledge your child’s wants and needs and let them know they are safe and loved. Watching your child have a meltdown and worrying about what other people are thinking can be stressful. Just know that this behavior is normal and it will pass.