Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: meltdown

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    Tips for Controlling Your Emotions

    When you’re in the checkout line at the store and a 2-year-old has a meltdown because they can’t have a candy bar, nobody is shocked because well, they are two. It’s totally another story when an adult who is unable to regulate their emotions has a public meltdown. 

    Unfortunately, a rising number of teens and adults seem to be struggling with emotional and impulse control, and the results are often disastrous. Think road rage, someone cutting in line or even publicly expressing a different opinion in a rude manner.

    The Child Mind Institute defines self-regulation as the ability to manage emotions and behavior in accordance with situational demands. It is a skill set that enables children, as they mature, to direct their own behavior toward a goal, despite the unpredictability of the world and their own feelings. It includes:

    • Being able to resist highly-emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, 
    • Calming yourself down when you get upset,
    • Adjusting to a change in expectations, and
    • Handling frustration without an outburst. 

    Children who don’t learn this skill struggle to self-regulate as they get older. And, if you’ve ever experienced this out-of-control feeling or been on the receiving end, you know it’s not a good thing. There is good news, though. If you didn’t learn this skill as a child, it is still possible to learn it as an adult. 

    Your emotional brain processes information in two milliseconds, so keeping yourself under control during a frustrating experience involves being able to pause between the feeling and your response. There is a trigger; someone pushes your buttons (we all have an easy button), there is an instant reaction, accompanied by a strong emotion often followed by a feeling of remorse. This is the body’s automatic built-in protection system, also known as “fight, flight or freeze.” 

    Your rational brain, which helps you make sound decisions, processes information in 500 milliseconds, 250 times longer than your emotional brain. People have to learn how to assess situations quickly, but if they don’t pause long enough to discern what is actually happening, their emotional brain can take control before their rational brain has a chance to kick into gear. 

    If you or someone you know struggles with self-regulation, it’s not too late! You just have to be intentional about choosing to behave differently. 

    Think about what you can control and what you cannot. You cannot control how other people behave, but you can choose how you will respond or engage with them. Sometimes, the best response is to do nothing.

    Learn how to master your feelings, versus letting them master you will serve you well. For example, when someone cuts you off when you’re driving, you suddenly feel your heart rate go up, adrenaline starts flowing, and your first instinct is to go after them. However, if you are practicing emotional regulation, you can take a breath, even acknowledge that that makes you angry, but then let it go because the consequences of your actions could bring harm to you, that driver and others who aren’t even involved.

    This should not be interpreted as people not being able to stand up for themselves or being silenced. Instead, learning how to master strong and powerful emotions can help people develop calm and constructive ways to have their voice heard. When people are out of control, it’s highly unlikely that anything positive will come from the situation.

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    A Parents' Holiday Survival Guide

    The song says it’s the most wonderful time of the year. And, in a lot of ways, it is wonderful. Something about the season seems to bring out the best in many folks. However, too much of a good thing can lead to serious meltdowns for children and parents alike.

    As you prepare to enjoy a wonderful season with your family, here are a few things to consider ahead of time.

    • When it comes to your expectations of your children, keep them realistic. During the holidays, everything they are used to in the way of bedtime, the food they eat, who they spend time with and more gets thrown to the wind. While it is tons of fun, children can only take so much before they move into overload - and we all know that never ends well. Everyone will be happier if you can keep some semblance of routine and structure.
    • Talk with your children about your plans for each day. Just like adults, it’s helpful if kids know what to expect. Keep it simple. Share the highlights.
    • Keep your cool. When your child has a meltdown, it can be a challenge for you to not have one, too. Yelling and getting angry will only make matters worse, so stop and take a deep breath. Then, if possible, take your child to a quiet place where they can regain control.
    • If you can, try to spread out the celebrations instead of doing everything in a 48-hour period. While it’s hard to say no to the grandparents, putting boundaries in place can make the celebrations more enjoyable for everyone, even if you celebrate on a different day. A note to grandparents: Your adult children often find it difficult to tell you no without feeling guilty. Asking your grown children what works best for them could really help them as they plan to celebrate.

    For those in the midst of co-parenting:

    • Talk about the fact that transitions are difficult. Sometimes just saying, “I don’t have a choice and you don’t have a choice; now how are we going to make the best of this situation?” can make things better for your child.
    • Make a plan. Discuss how to make the transition easier. Then use your time together to make it a special celebration.
    • Be prepared. Help them understand the possibility of a last-minute change in plans. Ask them what they would like to do instead and acknowledge the pain they may feel.
    • Stay in the parent role. While it might be tempting to be your child’s buddy, that is not what they need from you. It is very difficult to go back to being the parent once you have crossed that line. Before you make or change plans, think about how it will affect your child.
    • Children will follow your lead. If you have a bad attitude about the holidays, your children will probably follow suit. Set a positive mood for a holiday to remember.

    Planning for bumps in the road beforehand can reduce holiday stress in your family and increase the chances for a joyful holiday. Wherever you find yourself, choose now to make the best of the days ahead.


    Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!


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    How to Help Children Handle Their Emotions

    How do you feel when your child has a meltdown? You probably do everything you can think of to help them, but absolutely nothing works. It could be in the store checkout line, at bedtime, the second you walk in your friend’s house or at a birthday party. You may find yourself at wits’ end and literally on the verge of having your own meltdown.

    There probably isn’t a parent on the planet who can’t relate to this experience. Your blood pressure goes up and you can feel everyone watching you. So, you reach into the recesses of all you know about good parenting in an attempt to use something you’ve learned, but absolutely nothing will console your child.

    What now?

    Before you judge yourself too harshly, know that you are not alone. There is nothing worse, no matter how old you are, than feeling out of control. Children have meltdowns. But guess what? Sometimes adults do too.

    Christie Burnett, editor of Childhood 101, encourages parents to consider developing a “Calm Down Plan” to help children cope when their emotions overwhelm them. These steps can help them when they are upset or feel out of control.

    5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions

    • Remember that it is never OK to hurt others. Set clear guidelines about what is acceptable and what is not. For example, physically hurting others or destroying things is not acceptable, nor is it OK to say hurtful things.

    • Take three deep breaths or count slowly to 10. Breathing deeply or slowly counting to 10 gives your child time to recognize their body’s warning signs, such as a tense body, clenched teeth or a racing heart. Talk with your child about how their body feels when they are angry or frustrated. Then introduce the idea of taking a few breaths to compose themselves and choose a better course of action than striking out at another person.

    • Use words to express feelings and hopes. Acknowledging their feelings gives them legitimacy. Saying what they wish would take place helps to open a problem-solving conversation. Sometimes what they wish would happen is not acceptable, but this is part of the learning process. It’s also a great opportunity to help them think of other options.

    • Ask for help to solve the problem. Talking through a problem helps to process the situation, even for adults. Let your child know it is OK to ask for help solving a problem, and keep channels of communication open so they feel they can always come to you for help. One day, they’ll be working on much bigger problems than a spat with a sibling or frustration with a friend.

    • Take the time needed to calm down. Teach your child that sometimes the proposed solution may not seem to be enough. They may still feel angry or upset after working through each of the steps. In these situations, it is often better to walk away or find another safe way to diffuse those feelings.

    Whether you’re younger or older, it’s difficult when you feel out of control. These steps can provide a sense of security and help you develop a plan of attack for those moments when big emotions try to take over.