emotional meltdown

Why do children have emotional meltdowns? 

Growing up involves a minefield of situations to be negotiated.  Sometimes however, the situation we expect children to negotiate is way beyond the maturity or coping mechanisms they have to deal with the situation.  In these moments, you may wonder where your little angel has disappeared to.  And whether you are parenting a toddler… or a teenager, if you are faced with an exhausted and frustrated bundle of energy, tired, hungry and mad at the world, the responses can be surprisingly familiar.  

Life can feel tough – Unfamiliar social interactions, behaving as expected, or when demands seem inconsistent 

And when you add to the mix, a body they are only just becoming fully aware of, limbs that are not yet working quite as they would like and with a vocabulary that cannot keep pace with their explosions of thought, it’s no wonder that sometimes our children’s bodies scream for a timeout.   

During these moments they may become more agitated, frustrated, sullen or angry.  They may seem unable to use their otherwise impressive vocabulary when something goes wrong.  Or become increasingly sensitive over the simplest of situations.  As they experience emotions at levels they cannot cope with, they can become overwhelmed and their bodies tip into an emotional meltdown that we recognise as a “difficult behaviour”. 

While there are ways that you can learn to anticipate your child’s behaviours, you are unlikely to prevent them  

So, fearing or ignoring them is unlikely to result in positive outcomes for anyone involved.  Instead, look to understand the causes of these behaviours in general, and your own child’s in particular, and you will be better equipped to manage them when they are about to happen.  And to deal with it effectively when it does – even if that is in the middle of the supermarket.   

But that can be easier said than done when their behaviours are beyond the point of their control.  Children in the early stages of development, are not yet in control of their emotions.  Their verbal skills cannot keep pace with their thoughts, feelings and needs, and this can result in overwhelming feelings of frustration.  Especially when they are on the verge of a growth spurt, either physically, mentally, or psychologically.  Something that happens frequently during their toddler years.   

Through the experiences you provide, your child is developing a sense of the choices they can make 

As they learn that their choices come with consequences, they are looking to you to teach them the skills they need to fix their own problems.  To be resilient, to feel their emotions in safe ways, and to take responsibility for their own actions.  They also need to be able to confide in you, to ask a question and to know that you will respond to them with compassion.   

As you experience these difficult moments together, remember they are all just a natural part of growing up 

Because, handled correctly, your child will see you as someone they can trust, someone they can relate to, and learn from.  They will learn what it means to feel secure and empowered, even when things go wrong.  And that when things do become too much, that you will be there for them, without conditions, or agenda.   

This article is taken from our course: The Secure Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.   www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk


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