Our resident child life specialist Kelsey Cramer shares some tips and tricks to support your child in a stressful situation.
No matter your age, stress happens. For children, stress in new or challenging situations can manifest in meltdowns or tantrums. Here are some tips on how to support them in those moments.
How to help your child during more stressful situations:
- Keep yourself as calm as possible.
The more calm you are, the more calm your child will be overall. When you remain calm yourself, children are more likely to model that behavior. This can be easier said than done in certain situations. Remember, meltdowns (others call them tantrums) are age appropriate for young children and to be expected, in general. These meltdowns can be exacerbated (potentially) in more challenging or new situations. Check out this video to see how a child’s brain works when in a stressful situation.
- Validate their feelings.
You can say, “I see you are upset,” “It is okay to feel angry,” or “Do you need a hug?” Or try, “It seems like this is very scary to you, which part feels the most scary?”
“You are safe, and mommy or daddy are not going anywhere.” Validating their feelings helps them process those emotions more clearly.
- Debrief after the stressful experience.
When children have reached the meltdown phase, you may need to wait to process their experiences until after they have returned to baseline (or their typical selves). After they appear calm, you can then facilitate a simple conversation about what you noticed, ask questions about how they felt, and offer one or two coping strategies.
Kelsey Cramer is a Los Angeles-area child life specialist and a Piper + Enza expert contributor.