Q:“My child has a meltdown each day when he arrives home from school. Do you have some suggestions that can help us avoid these tantrums and make our house peaceful again?”
A: This is a great question. Meltdowns and tantrums are not uncommon in childhood and usually stem from the child’s inability to control his/her own emotions. Preschoolers and older kids are more likely to use tantrums to get their way if they've learned that this behavior works. One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to remain calm when the tantrum occurs. Try not to react. It’s recommended to avoid tantrum triggers if they can be identified.
There are many possible reasons for the tantrum. It’s conceivable that your child may have some difficulty in transitioning from one environment to another, misses his friends, or is tired and hungry. The first thing I would recommend when your child comes home is to isolate him. It is completely appropriate to send him to his room for a few minutes to calm down. Make sure the room is cool, quiet, and dark as the goal is to reduce stimulation to regulate sensory input.
When he is calm, offer a snack and drink and ask him how his day was in a quiet environment (be cautious of background noises for inadvertent stimulation). Be clear and empathetic in your words, reinforcing the calm behavior, not the tantrum. See if you can determine the trigger through gentle questioning. Contact your child’s teacher and explain his behaviors, asking the teacher if other incidents occur at school or if changes in behavior are noted. A communication book between you and the teacher is a great way to communicate about daily changes. The notebook can be kept in the child’s backpack to transfer back and forth during each school day. Some children excel with more structure and routine and need advanced notice of changes in order to prepare for the transition. Enlist your child’s teacher for help. The bottom line - don’t give in to the meltdown. Try to determine the reason for the meltdown in order to help your child regain control.
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