Strong-willed kids have a lot of frustrating behaviors. For me though, meltdowns are one of the most challenging behaviors. I want to cry in a corner because my child's totally out of control with emotions. I am usually left with a lot of questions; “What do I need to do to help my child manage their emotions better?”, “What can I do to weather the storm of their emotions in a healthier way?”, and “What's even going on? Why are they doing this?” So we're here with marriage and family therapist, Jeff Tesch to talk about all things meltdown. LISTEN ABOVE OR READ BELOW Jeff Tesch, LMFT What causes a meltdown? What's going on in the child's brain during meltdown? Meltdowns are really a flood of emotions. So many emotions that your brain starts to be overstimulated and stops thinking rationally. But where do all those emotions come from? All emotions are driven by thoughts. Emotions are really a response to what you’re thinking. For example: when you are afraid of something, you don’t feel fear first. Rather, you think a fearful thought THEN you feel fear. What happens next? After you have a thought, followed by an emotion, the emotion builds unless you change your thinking. As the emotions build, some unfortunate things happen in your brain: Your brain shifts into the fight or flight response/a panic response. Your ability to think clearly and rationally diminishes. You start to believe things that aren't accurate You become difficult to reason with You have to calm down before you can think rationally again So when our child is in the middle of a meltdown, you can assume that their emotions have flooded the brain. Their brain isn't able to rationalize or reason or do any problem solving. They truly are just in the fight or flight part of their brain that doesn't do any of that higher functioning. That is a significant thing to remember. In the middle of a meltdown is NOT the time to talk, explain, or to act different. In fact, engaging with a child who is melting down usually leads to further escalation. What can you do to help prevent a meltdown? Think about the Hulk [hulk picture]. As you might know, he has some warning signs that he’s going to turn into the Big Green Guy. He goes through a process where he's fighting against his emotions. If he’s not successful he turns into the green guy and he's gone. Here’s some tips for preventing a meltdown: Be aware of what triggers a meltdown in your child. What signs do they give you that they are headed into a meltdown? The earlier you can intervene, the better. Distract their thinking. Since emotions are a result of thoughts, try changing what they’re thinking about. If you see a meltdown coming on you could start asking them questions about something completely unrelated, start playing a game, etc. Use “Emotional Coaching” A lot of times, meltdowns occur when a child isn't feeling understood, heard, or like their feelings are valid. Using emotional coaching can help your child feel like somebody understands them.Researches conducted a study where they wired kids up and monitored them throughout their day. The researchers wanted to learn about physiological response to everyday struggles. The researchers taught parents to simply notice their child’s feelings and to label their child’s feelings out loud. Example: “You look upset” or “You are frustrated”. The research showed that if parents made that kind of a statement, their kids were much less likely to begin to escalate emotionally. Most humans begin to feel calmer when they feel validated and understood.So what is emotional coaching?Emotional coaching was developed by researcher John Gottman. You can read about it more in his book Raising and Emotionally Intelligent Child. Here are the basic principles taught in the book. Emotions are part of being human. There is nothing wrong with them.