We have just gotten back from a month long trip to visit family and friends in Colorado and it was fun, but it definitely had some tough moments. One of the things I enjoy about being a sleep consultant is that I really can understand my kiddo. It doesn’t mean that it makes parenting any easier at times but, at least I can understand or begin to understand why some meltdowns happen. And we seemed to have a lot of meltdowns on our trip. Not all meltdowns were sleep related but being a sleep consultant made me dive into learning about child development, temperament, parenting styles, and mental health. I saw how connected all of these were to sleep.
A month trip can be a long time for a kiddo, especially for a sensitive kiddo who, like my daughter, loves her routines and being in her own space. If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘sensitive child‘, or ‘spirited child’, (I would encourage you take a look at the links attached to those terms).
Seeing early on that she is reactive to her environment and very sensitive to sounds lead me to read more about is the topic. Being a sensitive person myself, I really can understand what my daughter needs. It took me a long time to understand myself as a sensitive person and hopefully I can help her understand herself much earlier in life.
Back to our trip and those meltdowns
We seemed to have many meltdowns and arguments with her on our trip. That’s not saying we don’t deal with more than our fair share at home but, it was more than normal. Now, I know she’s only four and meltdowns happen but, I hate meltdowns. One of the hardest parts of parenting is the emotional rollercoaster of being happy one minute and then dealing with a meltdown the next. It has taken me close to five years to get used to her crying and being really upset to not have it spread over into my own mood. I’m not always successful but I’m working on it!
Every meltdown made me think about what could be causing her to act the way she was acting. I would try and help her or make adjustments but it wasn’t always possible. As I reflect on our trip, it’s easy to see why we had so many meltdowns when she is dealing with a list of changes, and these are just a few!
- New environments and culture
- Speaking and learning a different language
- Meeting many new people
- Many activities
- Sleeping in a different bed
- Growing like crazy (new clothes again?!)
- Learning new skills
- Needing more alone time or space
- Being busy
- Development phases
Reflecting back on our trip it amazes me how much we do and go through without giving ourselves more credit when we handle all that we do, especially kids.
It would have been easy to give in and just make her happy when she was having a meltdown but being away for one month just didn’t make that possible. It would have been even harder on us coming back to our normal routines. There’s never an easy route and just because you try a method and it doesn’t go well, it doesn’t mean you should give up (same advice goes for sleep!).
I realize that dealing with meltdowns is a skill and it’s a constant work in progress, whether on a trip or not. Here are my general guidelines to try and reduce meltdowns:
- Provide downtime. Some days it’s good just to watch a little t.v.and hang at home.
- Keep rules at home the same while on the road. Of course there will be some exceptions but the general guidelines stay the same majority of the time. This helps provide consistency. Less consistency means more meltdowns.
- Teach words to help describe a feeling. Are they tired, hungry, irritated by something else?
- Teach them how to fix the issue. Ask them “When you feel this way, what can I or you do to help?” Guide them to find that emotion, teach them to understand their emotion and possibly how to fix the issue.
So, what do you do when meltdowns happen both for the kiddo and the adult, cause let’s be honest here, it happens. Give each other time to cool down and then come back to the talk it out. Talk about what happened, say you are sorry, talk about a game plan for the next time it happens. In the past when I’ve read help articles I used to think, ‘great, now I know exactly what to do and we’ll never have a problem again!’ But then the situation occurred again and we were right back to how it was even with trying the techniques. Keep in mind that with any changes you make there will be some trial and error and mistakes but, you must try and try again!
Since being home I can see how much my daughter just needed some calm time to play on her own and process everything she experienced. It’s hard to provide this all the time but at least I can recognize this and help her find ways to manage it in the future.
What did you see in your kiddos this summer? Each year they grow and develop and it can be so much fun to see this!
Thanks for reading and I hope you had a wonderful summer!