We don't always know what's behind a meltdown or behavioral crisis but we do know that their feelings are real. Their reactions to certain circumstances can seem over the top or unnecessarily dramatic but underneath are real feelings of frustration, sensory overload, rage, and plenty more. To effectively deescalate a meltdown you don't need to necessarily know why the behavior is occurring, only that whatever happened is causing this child or adult to feel out of control and validate that. Compassion and empathy, validation and a calming presence can go a long way in helping someone who is feeling out of control to calm down and come back to their baseline.
"I don't know what's made you upset but I care about you and I want to hear about it."
"I know how much you love your sister and you must have been really mad to say those things to her. Tell me what got you so mad."
"You're my friend and it hurts my feelings to see you this upset. Will you tell me what I can do to make you feel better?"
Make sure you have the time to listen after this question!
Commands, threats, or bribes don't work and often make the situation much worse. Being present and caring goes a long way and is a more respectful way of allowing a person to come back from an outburst. After, let them rest and allow them time to talk about what happened and what lead up to it, talk about other ways of handling strong feelings and over time these alternative approaches to feelings of hurt or anger may sink in. I have seen amazing transformations happen simply by letting a child know that you are on their side and allowing them to have at least one person who really believes that they can do this, that they can be in control of their feelings. It takes time but it does happen. And doesn't everyone need someone in their lives who keeps coming back even when we show them our worst?
Submitted byPatrice Carroll Manager of PWS Services