I tend to be one of those people that react to those around me. If my husband is yelling, I yell back. If my mom starts crying, the waterworks come for me, too. If my kids are throwing tantrums, I want to throw one right with them. It has taken years, but I have slowly begun to find ways to keep my cool instead of matching the emotions happening around me. Here is what I have learned.
How to prevent a meltdown
I find that I more easily lose my cool when I am out of the house. If one child has a meltdown, what do I do with the other one? I don't want to leave the activity if one is having a good time to deal with the other. Those situations just set me up to lose my patience and get overly upset with the kid who is causing a problem. To prevent this from happening, I know there are some things I will not do alone (going to museums, activity centers, or doctor appointments, for example). Instead, I enlist help. My husband, a friend or a parent can be a great aid. If one child has a meltdown, you can take her aside while the rest of the group continues on. I am more calm knowing someone is there to help, and I am not on my own.
Spend real time with your kids during the day.
One thing I have noticed with my kids is they are pretty good at entertaining each other. Sometimes I take this for granted and expect them to be pretty self-sufficient throughout the day, which results in me focusing my attention on the 100s of things I need to get done. However, there will be a point somewhere in the day where everything goes crazy. The kids are fighting, the dog is under foot and everything is coming undone quickly. That is when I know my kids need "mom" time. They need me to give them some undivided attention. I get on the floor, put the train tracks together, have tea parties and color with my kids. We laugh, act silly and have fun for a little bit. It tells my kids that I love them, I am there for them, and it gives me a chance to take a break and make sure I am actually interacting with my kids instead of just supervising. It ends up preventing a lot of future meltdowns.
What to do in the middle of a meltdown
Take a deep breath
This is a common saying in our house. When my kids start to get worked up one of the first things we say is "take a deep breath." There is something so adorable about a 2-year-old trying to breathe deeply, and it works. Often not right away, but they know that is their cue to calm down. Usually after a few breaths the crying has stopped, and they are more able to listen. The same is true for adults. I think we all have those moments where we can feel our blood pressure rising, and we just want to yell and scream and throw things. When that happens, I remove myself from the situation. I go to a different room and take a few deep breaths. Once I feel calm, I can take control of the situation, but only after I am sure that my rational side has returned, and my pulse has returned to a normal rate.
Stop what you are doing.
Doesn't it seem like whenever you are in the middle of something important, whether it be working on a project, having a conversation, painting a room or even cooking dinner, that is when your kids decide to have a meltdown? Those are the times when my reactions are quick and usually not very kind. I am annoyed that I have to divert my attention from what I'm doing to figure out who started the fight, what toy is the object of contention or who is just upset for no reason at all. But what I have discovered is if I stop what I'm doing and give 100 percent of my attention to my kid(s), things work out a lot quicker than if I try to shout orders from behind a computer or paint roller. Even though you may have to do this several times a day, it is the most effective way to resolve problems before they escalate to the next level.
What to do after a meltdown
Hug it out
We are a very emotional family. We have fights, we cry and we cuddle. My kids love to kiss and hug and are not afraid to show their emotions. We encourage them to express their feelings in an appropriate way (no hitting or screaming) and we know there will be times when feelings are hurt and mistakes made, but we always make up afterwards. My kids know what it means when we say to give each other a hug. They usually don't want to do it, to be honest. In fact, the victim of the fight is usually the first to give a hug, but the one who causes the problem will eventually give in and hug back. Now whenever my little girl does something wrong and is about to have a consequence she will stretch out her arms and say "hug, hug, hug!" It opens up a lot of great teaching moments that end with a hug and a kiss and allows us to move on.
As a parent, it is surprisingly easy to lose your cool. I am a very non-confrontational person, yet I find myself yelling at my kids much more than I am proud to admit. By implanting these simple methods, the volume at our house has lowered immensely. We have expectations in place and methods of dealing with issues when they arise and have found us keeping our cool more than losing it.