Child therapist urges parents to ‘get curious’ about their kid’s meltdowns and reveals the five things likely causing their big emotions

It can be hard to deal with a meltdown, but learning how to guide kids through their feelings is vital for parents

sad child
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A child therapist has shared the five things parents need to bear in mind when their child - whether they're a toddler or a teenager - is having a meltdown. And the tips are so important for guiding children through their emotions.

When you're faced with a child who's experiencing big emotions, whether that's sadness, stress, or anger, it can be just as overwhelming to deal with it as a parent as it is for the child to feel it. 

Often, having big emotions can lead a child to come across as rude,  and those kids with a ‘high emotional intelligence’ can often struggle as their feelings are hugely impacted by the emotions of those around them. You may even have a deeply feeling kid who experiences ‘explosive’ emotions that make it hard to not yell at them

But, as hard as it can feel, a child therapist has urged parents to try and take a step back when their kids are having a meltdown so they can think of where their child's emotions are coming from and, therefore, better deal with the behaviour resulting from those emotions. 

Child therapist Jess, known as NurturedFirst on Instagram where she shares her parenting tips, took to social media to share insight on the five things that make a child more likely to have a meltdown, so you can pinpoint the emotion fuelling their outburst and, most importantly, revealed how to help them through it. 

  1. Time away from their attachment figures. "If your child hasn't had quality time with you, or their other caregiver, they may have more meltdowns as a way to communicate that they need to feel close to you," she said. "Even if you've spend a lot of time with your child, it doesn't mean that they view it as 'quality.' Quality time happens when they feel known, safe, and seen by you."
  2. Transitions. Jess shares, "Transitions are really tough on young minds. They don't have the ability to hold two truths at the same time. What this means is they can't think, 'I love playing at the park AND I really should go home and eat lunch.' Their brain will latch onto the thing they are already doing and enjoying."
  3. Overstimulation. "Lights, sounds, textures, tastes - all of this can start to overload your child's nervous system leading to meltdowns especially in more sensitive children." She adds, "When it all becomes too much, they'll need to release this feeling from their body."
  4. Not feeling like they are being heard, seen or understood. According to Jess, "Their meltdowns are a way for them to communicate something with you. If they don't feel like you are hearing them, they'll often get louder and louder to ensure that their message gets across."
  5. They are hungry, sick, or tired and need support. "One of the most common reasons kids have meltdowns are the same reasons adults get into bad moods," she explains. "They are hungry, sick, or tired. These factors make it harder to regulate their nervous system and will lead to big emotions." 

So what can parents do to stop a meltdown? According to Jess, they need to 'get curious and coregulate.' Ok, so what does that mean?

"Getting curious sounds like, 'I wonder why my child is having such a hard time right now?' Coregulating looks like lending your child your calm [and] modelling to your child how you want them to eventually respond to their own emotions." It's easier said then done, but with help from expert tips to manage stress as well as tips to quickly calm down when parenting gets a bit too much, leading by example can be a little bit easier. 

The approach won't, Jess explains, stop tantrums and meltdowns straight away. It's a long-term technique that will eventually teach a child how to deal with and react to their emotions before they reach the stage of having a meltdown.

She reminds parents, "From a developmental perspective, our kids need to have meltdowns. This is how they release feelings from their body and communicate their needs to us. Our job is to be their leader, guiding them through their meltdown and teaching them how to cope. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes repeated exposure to our calm."

There are loads of ways to help teach kids how to deal with their emotions - from psychologist-approved ways to teach your kids how to manage their anger to simply talking to your kid about feelings using child therapist approved ways to get kids to open up about how they feel. 

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Royal News and Entertainment writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.