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Behaviour and Emotions

Managing Emotions

Managing emotions can be difficult for us all at times of stress. For those with communication difficulties, communicating and managing emotions is even more difficult.  The child/young person may demonstrate behaviours of concern when unable to express their worries, fear or confusion.  

Having access to a quiet area will enable a young person to take a calming break when they are feeling overwhelmed. This may be a particular chair or floor beanbag, or a younger child may prefer a pop-up tent filled with squashy cushions.  

Going for a walk or doing some exercise at home can also help. 

Managing Meltdowns at Home 

 Why do meltdowns occur?

Think of behaviour like an iceberg.  The tip of the iceberg represents the behaviour that we see, the hitting out, kicking, shouting. The part of the iceberg which is below the surface of the water represents some of the reasons which might help explain the behaviour.   

It is possible to implement strategies to PREVENT these behaviours occurring in the first instance. Strategies such as visual timetables, sensory breaks and exercise will help 

However, sometimes it will be necessary to implement strategies when the child is heading for a meltdown.   

 During the build up 

  • Redirection – help your child to focus on something other than the activity which is causing them to be upset.  Complete another task, focus on what your child likes 
  • Walk, don’t talk – walk with your child without talking.  The child is allowed to talk about whatever they want; as an adult you should remain calm and react a little as possible. 
  • Stress Kit – this can help focus your child’s attention on a more positive experience.  This can include items such as sensory toys, bubble wrap, ear plugs, calming music, books.  
  • Lead your child to a quiet, calm part of the house – have a space set with very few distractions, use your stress kit, if appropriate. 
  • Self-calming strategies – at a time when your child is already calm, teach them calming strategies, which they can complete themselves if they feel they are progressing towards a meltdown.  You can use a visual for your child to follow. Consider practicing some of the following strategies with your child when they are calm. 

During the meltdown 

  • Avoid social interaction – this is NOT the time to communicate verbally with your child.  This may only make the behaviours escalate further.   
  • Do NOT teach new calming skills – when your child is in a heightened state, they will be unable to retain this information and apply the skills.  Teach these skills when your child is calm, and have a few practices of applying each skill. 
  • Ensure the area around the child is safe – remove anything in the surrounding area which may be breakable, or could injure your child
  • Try to stay calm yourself – it is important that we can model calm behaviour for our children when they are in this heightened state.  


After the meltdown 

  • Give space – provide some time for your child to calm and let off some steam. 
  • Use calming strategies – use some of the calming and relaxation strategies mentioned earlier. 
  • Once calm, re-direct to another activity. 
  • Be prepared in case the cycle repeats itself.