• Deirdre Brandner

Tantrum or Meltdown: What makes them different and what am I meant to do ?

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Tantrums are very common in young children, and also those who struggle to manage their anger and frustration. They can be in response to things not going as planned or when the expected outcome is not achieved. Tantrums are more common when the child is tired, hungry or unwell. Sometimes children who have difficulty with language will be more likely to display tantrums as they struggle to communicate their emotional response.

A meltdown is a neurological response exhibited by both children and teens. It is very common in those that have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Unlike tantrums, it is usually predictable, is often accompanied by repetitive behaviours and will last longer. Sensory overload or heightened anxiety can lead to Meltdowns in this population.

Tantrums: What helps prevent them

  • Teach your child feeling words “I see that you are angry”

  • Help them learn coping skills “Squeezing a cushion helps with strong feelings”

  • Develop problem solving plans “When you brother takes your Lego what can you do?”

  • Monitor your child’s fatigue and hunger levels.

Tantrums: When it is happening

  • Ignore unless they are going to hurt themselves or others

  • Don’t give unnecessary attention until it’s over

  • Don’t give in, redirect instead

  • Remove your child from the situation so that you can assist them to get calm

  • Have consequences for hurting others once the tantrum is over

  • Meltdowns: What helps prevent them ?

Ensure your child is clear about what is going to happen, use visuals

  • Have an exit plan/escape ….safe place

  • Sensory toys reduce anxiety

  • Weighted blankets or objects

  • Physical activity which allows for repetitive behaviour

  • Reduce visual and auditory overload, e.g. headphones or sunglasses

Meltdowns; When its happening ?

  • Recognise the signs so as to exit quickly

  • Have a bag of “tricks” to soothe your child, food, chewy objects, iPad

  • Leave the area to a calmer environment

  • Reduce the sensory environment issues

  • Ensure your child is safe

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