What to do after a meltdown – unfinished business

loving mother comforting crying son on couch
By Psychologist Alex Almendingen

Emotionally-charged outbursts typically involve a constellation of unmanageable frustration, explosive anger, as well as disorganised behaviours (e.g., yelling, hitting, throwing). We know that these behaviours present a major challenge for many parents, to say the least!

Oftentimes, after the screaming has stopped and the dust has settled, it’s tempting to tell ourselves that ‘all is better now’. It can be easy to simply carry on with our day without looking back, all the while hoping they don’t occur again. BUT, as difficult and distressing as they are, emotionally-charged outbursts can represent key moments of learning and growth for parents and young people alike.

In next week’s blog, I will outline some strategies to help you and your child learn from their emotional meltdown. But before we get to that step, consider the following tips to prepare you both for the “lesson” to come:

  1. Achieving relaxation: Whether it’s in an hour, sometime later that night, or even the following day, it’s essential to give ourselves and our child the time to relax and reach a point of emotional stability. We must both reach this point of calm before we are able to engage in reflective discussions, reasoning, and problem-solving.
  2. Striving for reconnection: After everyone has had a chance to calm down, reconnecting with our child forms an integral next step to re-establish bonds necessary for later reflection, reasoning, and problem-solving. Whether this takes the form of physical contact (e.g., cuddles), engaging in collaborative activities, or playing games together, showing our child that we still love and care for them helps us get back in sync with them on an emotional level and can help repair a moment of discord in the parent-child relationship.
  3. Invitation for collaboration: Upon establishing reconnection, it can be helpful to invite your child to have a chat around the emotionally-charged outburst. Framing such an invitation as a chance to reflect on and learn from the experience, rather than to reprimand, discipline, or punish misbehaviours is incredibly important. It provides a beneficial and constructive approach to encouraging collaborative discussions grounded in mutual understanding of each other’s experiences.
Alex is a registered psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology. Within school-based and public mental health settings, Alex has experience in conducting comprehensive mental health assessments and delivering evidence-based psychological therapy for young people and adolescents with a range of behavioural, emotional, psychosocial, and neurodevelopmental challenges. Alex is also committed to strengthening the confidence and capacity of caregivers to support their children’s development and overall wellbeing. Through his person-centred, empathic, and collaborative approach, Alex is dedicated to building and maintaining a trusting, safe, and supportive therapeutic environment for all his clients and their families to create lasting positive changes.

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