Hello, dear conscious parent 💟!
Today I want to talk about TANTRUMS (aka: meltdowns, blow-ups, throwing fits, flare-ups, temper-tantrums). In my work with parents, the number #1 question that I get is: “How can I stop the tantrums? They drive me CRAZY!”
First, a friendly warning: as school gets to an end, and summer vacation begins, you will witness your children having MORE tantrums than “normal”. That’s because children have been accumulating overwhelming (toxic) stress in their bodies for the last 12 + months due to the pandemic, un-natural schooling on Zoom, un-natural isolation from peers and extended family, anxiety created by the news and social media, and increased parental stress. A child’s body is very intelligent and knows that stress must be released, otherwise it becomes a source of illness and chemical imbalances. For that reason, children use small pretexts to get upset and have a good meltdown – the way their body releases stress.
Second, let’s define “stress” for the purpose of this article: over the course of a day alone, your child experiences different levels of fear, worries, disappointments, sadness, helplessness, loneliness, shame, frustration, and powerlessness. These emotions are stored and naturally need to be released, otherwise the nervous system “gets stuck”.
Third, I want to dismantle the myth that only toddlers have tantrums. Children of all ages do throw tantrums – they just manifest differently, based on the age group. Adults are tantruming too, by the way.
Here are my 3 BIG IDEAS you can use to help your child during a tantrum:
1. Re-educate yourself to embrace a tantrum as an opportunity for emotional healing. Your child has no other adult but YOU to help him/her in this process. Furthermore, your child can not self-regulate alone. He/She needs co-regulation with YOU.
2. Stay close to your child and allow them to follow their body’s natural need to move, cry or lie down. Offer warm attention through eye contact or gentle touch. Listen 99% of the time, talk 1% of the time. Say: “I am here to keep you safe. You are safe. I am sorry this feels so hard right now. I love you“. Lower yourself to their level, or sit on the floor with them. Do not leave them alone. Do not rush the tantrum to end.
3. Do the necessary work on yourself (healing, trauma-work, coaching, etc) to understand your own triggers and pain that a tantrum brings up for you. If you accept that each tantrum, therefore trigger, is an invitation for better self-awareness, healing and personal growth, you will have more patience with your child when he/she needs you the most.