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Coping With A Day Out Meltdown!

Coping With A Day Out Meltdown!
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Article written by Anne Hilton

You know how it goes. You’ve meticulously planned a lovely day out. You’ve picked the venue because you just know your kids will love it. You’re happily picturing the smiles on their faces. And then they go and throw a tantrum. Usually in the most public and visible place that they possibly could. Wonderful. It’s difficult to know what to do in situations like this - but fear not! Here are some tips for handling a child’s day out meltdown…


Ok, there’s not masses you can do to prevent some meltdowns from happening. Sometimes they’re spontaneously triggered by things over which you have no control. Dinged knees, scary sights, inexplicable sibling squabbles... all of these things hit you out of the blue, and you can’t really do masses about them! However, you can reduce the likelihood of certain meltdowns. Here’s how:

  • Make sure that you’ve got everything organized. Sort out every last detail - right down to making sure that your car is full of gas and properly insured! Kids pick up on tense atmospheres pretty quickly, and if you’re getting worked up because you don’t really know what you’re doing (or something has gone wrong), they’re likely to throw that emotion right back at you. So prepare as well as you can for things to go smoothly!
  • Act cool, calm, and happy yourself (see above for the reason why!)
  • Make sure that they’re well rested the night before. Tiredness and excitement are a tantrum-inducing combination for a child!
  • Don’t over excite them. Sure, a bit of eager anticipation is part of the magic of a family day out, but too much excitement can be both overwhelming and result in disappointment when things aren’t the totally perfect ideal your kids had imagined.
  • Check that the venue you’re heading to isn’t likely to wind up your kid to the point where a meltdown is inevitable. Sometimes it’s good to push a kid slightly out of their comfort zone. That is, after all, how they learn and grow! However, if you’re not prepared to deal with an overstimulation event, avoid places which you know could trigger tantrums in your child!

Coping In The Moment

A tantruming child is a distressing event for any parent - and they can be really, really hard to deal with. Coping with them depends a lot on what has triggered the tantrum in the first place, so there are a lot of variables to think about here. For example, it’s generally a good idea to (more or less - make sure that they’re safe!) ignore a tantruming child. However, if they’re tantruming because they feel ignored, this could make things worse. So precisely how you deal with the situation depends on what caused it in the first place. Here, however, are some general tips:

  • Stay calm. If you ‘join in’ the tantrum by getting agitated, or angry, or upset, or panicky, or basically anything that isn’t calm and in control, you’re likely to exacerbate the situation. If it helps, remember that a tantruming child is perfectly normal, it’s something every parent experiences, and it’s nothing to worry about. Even if your child is screaming because they’re injured, a panicked reaction on your part will just scare them even more. So stay calm!
  • Establish that the child is ok. 90% of tantrums are due to perfectly harmless causes, but it’s as well to check that they’re not hurt just in case. You can generally establish whether or not a child is hurt by their actions and the tone of their crying - but if it’s hard to tell, ask them calmly what’s wrong, or give them a quick (calm!) check over.
  • Be consistent. Sometimes, parents ‘give in’ to tantrums in public because they’re embarrassed and want the situation to be over. If your child is tantruming in public, remain consistent with the rules and patterns of behavior you employ at home. What’s not acceptable at home is still not acceptable in public!
  • If there’s nothing seriously wrong, and you can’t do anything about the source of the tantrum, try distracting the child. If you pay as little attention as possible to the tantrum, and focus your own attention intently upon something else, they often focus their own attention on that. Sometimes the ‘distraction’ can be as simple as leaving the scene of the trauma, sometimes it needs to be more complicated.
  • If you really can’t bear the tantruming, try giving the child a really firm hug. We’re genetically programmed to feel safe and secure when being held firmly in an embrace, and it often works like magic to dispel any genuine negative emotion. However, you don’t want your child to feel rewarded for their tantrum by the hug, so don’t coo and pet them while you do it.

After The Tantrum

When things have cooled down, it’s important that your child knows that you still love them. They may be feeling guilty, or a bit silly, or worried that you’ll be cross with them. Let them know that you forgive them, give them a hug, and move on. With any luck, this will draw a line under the event and let you get on with enjoying your day out!

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