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Back to School – The difference between a Tantrum and a Meltdown

As anxiety rises after the holidays have subsided, and new routines are put into place, so often us as parents are faced with tantrums. The question so many parents have…

By Nicole Rothfusz

Jan 29, 2020

As anxiety rises after the holidays have subsided, and new routines are put into place, so often us as parents are faced with tantrums. The question so many parents have today, is that, is it a tantrum or is it a meltdown?

The key difference between a tantrum and a meltdown, is that a tantrum usually has a purpose. Meltdowns are a reaction to something and are usually out of a child’s control. For example, meltdowns usually occur when children feel overwhelmed by their surroundings or their own feelings. A child can stop a tantrum, whereas a meltdown is beyond a child’s control.

To tame tantrums, acknowledge what your child wants without giving in. Make it clear that you understand what they want or what they want to do. For example, you can say – “I see that you want my attention. When I am done here, it’ll be your turn.” That will help your child see that there’s a more appropriate behaviour that will work.

To manage a meltdown, help your child find a safe, quiet place to aid in calming them down. The goal is to reduce how much information is coming in that is creating the sensory meltdown. “Let’s leave and sit in the car for a few minutes and take some deep breathes.” If your child feels you are calm, they too will start to calm down. Children often feed off of our anxieties.

Remember you are never alone, if you feel your child is having continuous meltdowns contact your Occupational Therapist who will be able to give you many more coping strategies to aid and assist with your child’s meltdowns.

Wishing you a joyous 2020 and a great school year ahead!

Nicole Rothfusz (Paul)

Baby Steps Early Learning Centre Occupational Therapist

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much – Helen Keller”

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