What can I do if my child has a meltdown?

Meltdowns are an involuntary emotional response to their senses being overwhelmed. They’re different from tantrums, which usually have a purpose, and are a response to not getting or being able to do what they want.

When having a meltdown, your child will be looking to you to help them regain control of their feelings.

A baby looking upset

How you can help

Help your child find a safe space. They won’t be capable of listening, so don’t try to reason with them. Talking about what’s happened can come later, once they’ve calmed down.

Stay calm and close at hand during the meltdown. Some children like to have their back stroked. Others may not want to be touched, but need to know you’re close. If your child isn’t too upset, you could offer a distracting game, toy or task. At other times you may just need to ensure they’re safe, then let them release whatever they’re feeling.

Having a meltdown can be exhausting. Let your child calm down before speaking to them and offering them some water or a healthy snack.

Coping skills

Get to know which situations trigger your child’s meltdowns. Then reduce or remove the triggers you can control. For example, avoid crowded markets and shop at quieter times. You can also:

  • Get your child in the habit of talking about feelings.
  • Let them see the positive ways you handle stressful emotions.
  • Pick a ‘frustration signal’ your child can use to show when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Find some calm-down routines, like deep breaths, clapping patterns or counting to 10.
  • Practise calm-down routines while your child is feeling calm and secure.

    If your child has autism, some of the ways to manage a meltdown may be different. Read our advice on autistic meltdowns. 

    Go back

    What is an EHCP and an IEP, and how can my child get one?


    How can I help my child deal with their emotions?


    Understanding and managing my child’s behaviour


    How can I deal with an autistic meltdown?


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