When you are a parent, any day can be a stressful day. Things with kiddos twist and turn on the turn of a dime, and often things that are going perfectly turn dark at a moment notice. Did you forget the sparkly unicorn stuffed animal and bring the cuddly whale instead? Uh oh. Did a piece of kale accidentally touch the chicken finger? Watch out!
These situations may sound trivial, but anyone who has, works with, or is even around children knows this to be the case.
As someone who manages about ten meltdowns on a given day, I wanted to offer some helpful tips and tricks to navigate those tricky moments, especially as the New Orleans holidays (I’m looking at you Mardi Gras!) continue to roll on. Sometimes a deep breath just isn’t enough, so here’s what to do when things get tricky on the route.
A deep breath isn’t enough, but it’s where things start. Regardless of what’s going on, if everyone’s breathing, things are still good. Invite your kiddo, if they have the composure, to breathe as well.
Walk away (with your child).
Sometimes the most stressful part of a meltdown isn’t the meltdown, but the surrounding environment. Knowing that the prying and potentially judgmental eyes of others are upon you can make you behave in ways that aren’t characteristic of yourself and, frankly, don’t speak to what your child needs. The bang and clang of symbols can quickly turn from exciting and festive to stressful.
We all know that even half a block away from the route can seem like a ghost town when floats are rolling. Stop, get down on your child’s level—look them in the eye—and then you’ll be ready for the next, important step.
Give them a moment to scream and give yourself a moment to say how frustrated, angry, sad, etc. you are.
This is cathartic. Screaming is a legitimate way to let out anger and frustration, and it’s so ingrained in us that even as adults we use it when we need to. It is okay. However, remind them gently that “I can understand you and what you need when you use your words. So, when you stop crying/screaming and show/tell me what’s wrong, I can help you.”
This way, they know you’ll be there. They also get to begin to understand (though the full realization will take years) that their actions have implications for others’ feelings. As parents one of your greatest needs is to be validated as well—you spend so much time caring for and loving your little humans that you have to, even in the smallest way in the briefest moment, be willing to extend a little self-care to yourself.
Wait and offer coping mechanisms.
Listen to what your child says, look at how his or her body language responds to your words. Maybe they need a hug, maybe they need a walk around the block, maybe they need a break from the noise.
When we offer coping mechanisms to our children, we show them that they can manage their emotions. Perhaps not completely, but we plant the seeds. Maybe they caught a plush throw at the parade and would like to hug it? A special song you all make up—or one of their favorites!—might help to relieve the tension as well.
It’s important to remember that you won’t always be able to fix the problem—at least not within the child’s desired time frame. Sometimes things will have to wait, and it can be frustrating.
Reconnect and resume.
This is the most fun part! After you all are back on the same page, you can reconnect and resume the fun! They may still need some hugs and snuggles, but as you all prepare to head back into the fray these strategies will help your child know they are loved, heard, and can experience the downs—and ups!—of life without shame!
Laissez le bon temps rouler!
Ron—also known as Mr. Ron—is an early childhood educator and New Orleans native. He loves watercolors, running, and working with parents and families to live happier, healthier, and more creatively.