At the first cross country meet of the school year, I showed up completely unprepared. It was a sweltering 95 degrees, and I had dressed in long pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt and had failed to bring any water or snacks for my children. In addition, we were missing nap time for my youngest, which was already putting us on shaky ground. Thankfully, the cross country venue had thought ahead and had vendors that saved the day. Further, a really great playground entertained and distracted my youngest throughout the event. Unfortunately, I was stuck in my unseasonably warm dress.
I’m sure you can think of a moment like mine, when a meltdown is on the horizon. In my story, several factors were contributing to the likelihood of this occurring. When a child (or parent) is hungry, anxious, lonely, tired or stressed, they are less likely to be able to self-regulate and more likely to lash out. There are several keys to preventing moments like mine from happening:
- Be prepared. Dr. Jane Hannah, Upper School Division Head, can frequently be heard saying, “A predictable problem is a preventable one.” Thinking forward through a day or event will help you troubleshoot possible problem areas and can help you manage the unexpected as well.
- Preview activities and changes. For some children, changes in plans, new activities or unfamiliar people can cause anxiety and/or stress. Preview and rehearse what will happen and what you expect of your child in new situations.
- Provide downtime. After a demanding day or series of activities, holding it together can become too much for a child. Providing opportunities for mental rest is critical to learning and supports emotion and behavior regulation (Smith, 2013).
No matter how well-prepared you are and how hard you try to prevent meltdowns from occurring, they will happen. Keep your sense of humor. Although not always at the time, these moments usually become funny stories.
Reference: Smith, H. (2013). The benefits of downtime: Why learners’ brains need a break. Retrieved from: http://www.scilearn.com/blog/benefits-of-downtime-why-learners-brains-need-a-break.