Overwhelming childhood emotions

A photo of an upset child
Photo by Marco Aurélio Conde on Unsplash

When children are struggling with their emotions, and have become overwhelmed, we need to give them a safe space and time to calm down. This might mean moving them to a different room or area to keep your child and others safe, particularly if they or others are getting hurt.

Children need adults to validate and acknowledge how they are feeling and to know their adult is reliable and responsive to what is happening.

During a meltdown, children don’t hear anything so the most important thing to do is to stay close and be ready to respond as they calm down. This matters particularly when they need your support and love. It can feel really frightening for children when they lose control.

Rewording our interactions with our children does not come naturally; it takes time and practice but here are some ways of doing this:

  • Don’t just jump in and solve the problem. Encourage your child to think it through with you and acknowledge their feelings.
  • You can ask, “What could you do differently next time?”
  • Instead of “stop crying” you can say things like:
    • “It’s okay to be sad.”
    • “I know this is really hard for you.”
    • “I’m here with you.”
    • “That was really scary/sad.”
    • “I’m listening.”
    • “I will help you work it out.”
    • “I hear you.”
    • “I’ll stay close so you can come to me when you are ready.”
  • During a meltdown or when you see your child starting to struggle, begin with “I’m here to help.”
  • Encourage your child by saying things such as “I love being around you.”

Using the above responses maintains a safe space for your child, it allows you both to reconnect after a situation has arisen. It also values time after the event when everything has calmed to revisit the situation with your child and start to problem solve together. This will help you to find a positive step forward and also teach skills for managing emotions in the future.

In the future, I will be running an online workshop in which I will give some tips about managing childhood meltdowns. You can find out more on this page. If you are interested in attending one of these sessions, please get in touch.