Meltdown Methods: Steps for Supporting Emotional Regulation in Extreme Behaviors

If you are anything like me, it can be hard to keep your cool when your child (no matter how old) is physically losing his collective mind. Growing up is hard, but throw in sensory issues or emotional regulation problems, and we don’t only get meltdowns, we get dangerous aggression. As a Special Education professional and mother to a teen with High-Functioning Autism, I have put together some information to help you.

Keep in mind that every kid is different, but I have found these methods helpful in both my professional and personal lives. From holes in the wall and doors ripped off to barstools thrown and siblings attacked, I’ve experienced it all. And I’ve found that these steps help me to keep my cool…which makes all the difference with de-escalation for my child. Try it.

Parents of extreme children have to find our own ways of de-escalating the situation…especially as our children grow. But the steps I have put together below can help any parent of any child during a meltdown. Why? Because these steps are all about supporting the Social Emotional Learning of our children…not reacting and punishing.

Keep him, and others around, safe.

Yes, this may mean you need to hold him. If you aren’t sure of safe holding methods, I recommend checking out Mandt System holds. I hold my child with his back to my chest…arms crossed in front of him (as shown below).

Staged picture used with permission from my son. With a hold like this, my child is safe…and so am I from biting, kicking, throwing the head back, etc. Notice my stance and how I am holding him. During this time, I am working on getting him to the floor while also validating his emotions (see steps below).

Get to his level.

Sit with him, hold him, lay on the floor with him, rock with him, etc. Stay at his level.

Validate.

Say phrases like…
~ “I get it.”
~ “I’m here.”
~ “I know.”
~ “Look at me. I’ve got you.”
~ “You’re safe.”

Breathe with him.

Say, “In your nose (breathe in)…out your mouth (breathe out).” Do this over and over while repeating the validating words from the previous step. He will begin to release his tension.

Staged and used with permission from my son. As your child releases tension during the validating and breathing, release your hold slightly so he realizes he has some control. The hold isn’t what de-escalates…the validation is.

Hug.

When he has de-escalated and his body has returned back to a more relaxed state, he will be exhausted. Just hold him. Repeat the words you’ve been saying, stroke his hair, kiss his head, etc. Remember that it’s likely he may not remember/process a lot of what just happened yet. If you had him in a hold, this may be when he will voluntarily turn around…depending on the child. My son always turns around and holds me in a hug while we rock, breathe, etc. He’s almost 13.

Talk later.

Wait to talk about what happened until much later…sometimes the next day. After a physical meltdown, brain activity is often equivalent/similar to what a child with Epilepsy’s brain resembles after a seizure. Body and mind are exhausted. Safety and validation are the only concerns right now.

Later is when you address what happened. From what went wrong to what went right and what worked. Talk about breathing techniques, coping strategies, and allow your child to tell you what helped or did not help. Be open to accepting that your child deserves some respect during the process of learning how to manage his own emotions.

~ Feel free to share with anyone and everyone who you feel may benefit from this information. My goal is always supporting others. I truly believe that children learning these emotional regulation skills is a huge aspect of managing mental health later in life. – Bailey Koch
~ Follow our journey on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbailey/. Our website is at www.jeremyandbailey.com. On social media @jeremyandbailey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s