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Parenting Through A Meltdown

When a child is in the middle of a meltdown, the focus should only be on co-regulation, not on anything else at that moment. This may look like:

Making sure the child is safe (you may need to move them)

Sitting next to the child and breathing slowly and deeply

Offering a hug (if accepted)

Focusing on your own heart and breath rate

Comforting the child

Rocking or walking with the child

Using few words

Using some music to help them co-regulate

Or other strategies that work for your child

During a meltdown is NOT the time to explain why the child is upset, or even lecture or punish the child for behavior. Why? Because during a meltdown their brain blood flow changes, and during fight/flight they have little access to their frontal lobe or “thinking” parts of the brain. They also have decreased access to their memory center as well. So spending time lecturing, teaching, explaining, or even arguing can simply prolong the meltdown process and leave both of you frustrated. Safety is always the most important, so focus on that first and then co-regulation.

Once the child has completely calmed down you can go back to discussing what happened (if they are old enough) and working through how to deal with the situation.

This ALSO goes for any child who may be in the “freeze” mode with anxiety. Often we forget that this behavior is very similar neurologically to a meltdown. They will also not be able to process information as they normally would, so focusing on co-regulation first will help them the most during that time.

If you want to learn more about dysregulation and how to improve regulation related behaviors at home including focus, attention, hyperactivity, sensory integration, social skills, and more follow @movementmatters on Instagram.

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