How to respond when your child is having a meltdown
All children (and adults) go through tough times in their lives. Our job as parents is to help our children navigate the very complicated maze life can be. When children have meltdowns and big emotions overwhelm them, they are signalling to us that they need help. Every behaviour is a form of communication. When children have a meltdown, they are telling us they need help. They might need help with being taught how to handle anger when their sibling took away a toy, how to handle frustration when they cannot have a snack just before dinner or they might need help with feeling anxious about too many new people or being in a noisy place. All meltdowns are opportunities for parents to teach children how to respond and how to handle distressing situations.
For more details, please click here.
Children and anxiety
School aged children often display increased anxiety regarding forming and maintaining friendships, their school performance, or the well-being of their family to mention just a few. However, if their anxiety prevents them from enjoying school and family life and/or leads to academic performance decline, a help from a psychologist/counsellor is recommended. Highly anxious children often anticipate bad things to happen and interpret neutral events in a negative manner. They often display low self-esteem and readily blame themselves for things that were out of their control.
Some suggestions how you might help your child can be found here.
School aged children and ADHD
Current research indicates that children with ADHD have structural and functional differences in their brains when compared to their peers, especially in the frontal lobe. The frontal brain regions are responsible for executive functioning (i.e. planning, organising, regulating behaviour and emotions). Approximately 3% to 7% of school aged children present with symptoms of ADHD. Typical characteristics of children with ADHD and suggestions to teachers and parents can be found here.
Diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder
Autism spectrum disorder is a pervasive developmental disorder and children are diagnosed with autism when they display difficulties in the areas of social communication and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour. Some of the characteristics that clinicians and parents describe can be found here.
Anxiety and Autism
In Australia approximately 1 in 100 children are diagnosed with autism and people are becoming more aware of some of the difficulties children with autism encounter and how we can best help them. Children with autism often display anxiety because the world around them can be a very overwhelming and hard to understand place. They have difficulty understanding social interactions, reading facial expressions and gestures of others and might get overstimulated by environmental stimuli that neurotypical people barely notice (e.g. a child can’t concentrate at school because he can hear a lawn mower in the background or is disrupted by a flashing light in the hallway).
Older children might be able to identify that they feel anxious and can ask for help. In younger children, however, their distress is usually communicated via challenging behaviour and having a meltdown. Here is a list of strategies that you might find helpful in managing your child’s anxiety:
When parents separate
Separation (or divorce) is usually a very stressful event in the lives of the separating parents, but it is also experienced as significant distress by the children. The more animosity and conflict there is between parents, the more behavioural and emotional difficulties children present with. Children might respond with self-blame, taking sides with one parent, worrying about the other parent leaving them as well or some children might regress in their skills (e.g. toileting accidents) and display behaviours that are typical for children of much younger age. How children respond to their parents' separation depends largely on their age and how big conflict there is between their parents. For more details on what to expect and how to help children during a parental separation/divorce, please click here.