Want to avoid meltdowns? Whether you have a toddler or a teen a child therapist reveals the 5 things to bear in mind

Teaching kids how to navigate their feelings can be difficult, but it's incredibly important for their development

Child crying covering their eyes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

No matter how old you child is, trying to avoid a meltdown when something goes wrong for them often feels impossible. Thankfully, a child therapist has revealed the five things they say parents need to bear in mind when guiding their kid through hard emotions. 

Dealing with big emotions is something that everyone struggles with - especially those new parents struggling with a lack of sleep. Even when we're stressed or dealing with parental burnout, we mostly have the skills to deal with those emotions, to step back and de-stress. But children? They simply haven't learnt how to do that yet. 

Whether you have a toddler or a teen, it's important to remember that kids navigate their sadness, their stress, and their frustration in different ways and it's up to parents to teach them how best to handle those big emotions - which is especially important if you have a deeply feeling kid

For parents struggling to deal with the outbursts, child therapist Jess, known as Nurtured First Parenting on Instagram, has taken to social media to share the top five things that make a child 'more likely' to have meltdowns and revealed what parents can do to support their kids through them.  

"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," she explains. "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."

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 says. 

2. Transitions. Jess explains that a child going from one fun activity to the next can often cause a meltdown as they 'don't have the ability to hold two truths at the same time.' She explains, "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," says Jess. "When it all becomes too much, they'll need to release this from their body." 

4. Not feeling like they are being heart, seen, or understood. The expert explains that meltdowns are often a way to communicate something to a parent and they'll 'often get louder and louder' if they feel they are being ignored. 

5. They are hungry, sick, or tired and need support. These are the most common reasons kids have meltdowns, according to Jess, as they make it 'harder' for them to regulate their nervous system and it can lead to 'big emotions.' 

So how can parents teach their kids the best way to handle their big emotions and, hopefully, avoid meltdowns in the future? Jess says you need to learn how to 'co-regulate.'

"Co-regulating looks like lending your child you calm," she explains. "[It is] Modelling to your child how you want them to eventually respond to their own emotions. This can be tough to do, especially if you never learned this as a child." 

In other family news, giving teens ‘space and opportunity’ to be independent helps them thrive according to an educator - here’s 3 top tips to get started. Plus, do you get your kids’ names mixed up? Psychologist reveals why your brain makes this ‘common glitch’ and it’s not the reason you think. And a parenting expert shares the one ‘emotional habit’ that can affect kids’ ‘security’ and ‘trust in themselves’ and what parents can say and do instead to break the cycle. 

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. 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.