Oh no! Look away! Run! Hide! Do something! Your child is acting like an animal! Your child is about to have a meltdown…IN PUBLIC! Not just a regular run-of-the-mill meltdown, but a full-blown, crying screaming, hitting, throwing their body to the floor, jelly legs, meltdown.
Oh, wait…that wasn’t your child, that was you. How embarrassing?
Whether it is you, or your child, on the brink of an epic meltdown — for all the world to see and judge — there are some things that you can do to avoid and manage public outbursts; your own and your children’s.
More often than not, our children wait until the least opportune moment to have their major tantrums. We are talking during the middle of grocery shopping, in school pick-up line for their sibling, at the doctor’s office, at a restaurant, etc. This makes it even more likely for us to have our own public melt-down.
But, you are in luck, as I do believe that I can offer some advice for handling your child’s flare-ups and for avoiding your own at the same time.
Helpful Tips For Handling Your Child’s Public Meltdown:
— Experts on parenting note that attentive observation of your child is key to preventing a public meltdown for them. Parents have to be willing to take the time to check in with their child verbally about their feelings. Parent should also monitor their child’s tone, facial expressions and overall demeanor in an effort to decipher the current mood that their child is in. If you are too self-involved, or are just clueless as to their cues because you are focusing on other things, you may miss something that is going on with them. Being aware of their general disposition, at that time, prior to a venture out to join the general public, will give you the knowledge of how to speak to and interact with your child while you are out, and hopefully, avoid an outburst.
— Another key to public outburst prevention is preparation. Most experienced parents have come to the understanding that their purse or diaper bag is really a “bag of tricks”. Ensuring that you have in your bag, snacks for the tired child, a favorite toy or book for the angry child, a lovie or safe item for the sad child and a few surprises for the bored child, you will be well-prepared to distract your child and walk them back off the meltdown plank.
— Be silly. I can recall many instances when my children were mid-tantrum and I made a silly “toot” noise or made a super-goofy face and they could not help but laugh. We all know the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” and there is so much truth to that; it is hard to make a pouty face when you are giggling.
— Give them some control back. A lot of children’s meltdowns occur as a result of power struggles. Give them some control over their world by offering them choices and you may be surprised by how they rebound when they feel that they have a say in things. This does not mean to give into their every whim and whine, but to acknowledge their wishes, vocally, and to at least have a discussion surrounding them.
— Discuss the “plan” with your child before the plan is acted out. If the schedule dictates that you have to go to the grocery store after school pick-up, inform them of this the night before or morning of. Kids feel better when they don’t feel surprised by an act that has to take place. Give reminders and provide warning when transitions will be occurring, i.e. “After we stop by the bank, we need to run into the store to grab one thing”.
— Distract, distract, distract. Distract your child from whatever is causing their meltdown by playing with them and/or using your imagination. Are they upset because your last-minute stop at the grocery store is going to mean they miss a playdate with their friends? Convince them of how fun it will be to go on a scavenger hunt in the store, pointing out the items they are “supposed” to find from the imaginary scavenger hunt list. Provide them with tons of praise during the distraction period.
Helpful Tips For Preventing Your Own Public Meltdown:
— Breath. Yes. I know this seems so easy right, but a lot of us forget the power of taking calming breaths. When we are on the brink of “losing it,” and our frustration is at an all time high, taking a slow inhale and exhale breath, can be more powerful than our negative feelings.
— Laugh. This is probably the last thing you want to do when you are feeling lost, embarrassed and defeated, but it is exactly what you need to do. Tell yourself a joke in your head or remind yourself of something funny that you saw. A brief humorous distraction has the power to bring your current challenges into perspective and most likely, draw your attention to the fact that the mountains you are seeing are really just mole mills.
— Cry. Yes, if you need to, then just cry. Sometimes letting it out is the best thing we can do. Want to know why I think it is okay to cry, check out my article I Cry, You Cry, We All Cry, written back in March.
— Have a snack or a drink (non-alcoholic if it is daytime!) Sometimes we are just “hangry” and if we treat ourselves to a small snack, or cup of coffee, or tea, it will help put us into a better mood.
— Accept that you may be “Getting Phased” by your child. Not sure what they means. Click the link and find out.
The overall purpose of this article is to provide you with tips on handling meltdowns; yours and your children’s. They are inevitable and are actually productive, because typically you, and/or your child, will learn from the incident.
Still, it is nice to try to avoid them occurring when the general public is your audience, but in the event that you cannot, find solace in knowing that breakdowns, yours and theirs, are 100% the norm when you are a parent.