* Reducing Meltdowns

By Laura Keys, LCSW, Courier & Press, Sept. 19, 2017 –

If you are the parent or caregiver of a young child, you have most likely experienced the dreaded meltdown or temper tantrum.  You also know it is  not  a  delightful experience  for you or your child.

Children do not like to feel out of control or unsafe, which is often what is occurring during a meltdown.  If you are new to the game of parenting or caregiving, these meltdowns or tantrums do not magically end when kids leave the “terrible twos” and turn three.  In some cases, they can continue through a child’s early elementary years.

However, for most kids and their parents or caregivers there is relief.  There are a few things you can do to help speed or at least ease the process and build your child’s self-esteem at the same time.

One of my favorite books to recommend to parents is  “No More Meltdowns,”  by Jed Baker, Ph.D.   I like this book because he uses examples where he, as both a therapist and parent, has sometimes struggled or had to try different approaches before finding the right one for his client or his own child.   In both cases, he keeps trying until he finds success.

 This is a reminder that no one is perfect.  Each child is different, and what works for one child may not work for the next child.  He also gives practical, common-sense advice.

For example, see if there is a time pattern or specific trigger before a meltdown occurs.  Is your child hungry or tired because of a missed snack or nap?  Are they off their normal routine for some reason?  Does your child always have a tantrum when you buy a birthday present for another child?

Once you identify the problem you can avoid the trigger in the future.  As your child becomes older and more communicative these will become teachable moments.  Not only will you be trying to avoid uncomfortable tantrums for you and your child, you will be teaching them the beginning steps of self-problem solving.

If a slightly older child has issues with homework such as math, always start with a few problems they can work successfully.  This will give them confidence before moving on to problems they are struggling with.  Always praise their efforts.

Yes, you want them to develop their skills, but if they feel they are mentally or emotionally defeated before they even get started on a task, it increases the likelihood they will get frustrated, give up, shut down or turn the situation into a power struggle.  Power struggles can cause a meltdown for both you and your child.

Trying to reason with a child during a meltdown does not usually work.  The child’s reasoning capabilities are most likely not engaged at this point.  The goal at this point is to soothe and comfort.   This does not mean giving in; it means keeping the child from hurting himself or others.  Remember that children with certain conditions will be more difficult to help through tantrums than others.

In emergency situations, Dr. Baker recommends distraction.  However, he cautions not to use this all the time as the child will learn this as their primary coping skill.  As they get older they may learn that distraction is a way to avoid doing what they don’t want to do, (i.e. math problems).

Hopefully, this article is a reminder to parents that you are not alone; there are resources available if you are interested or feel you need assistance.  Dr. Baker’s book is just the tip of the iceberg.

Also, remember, throwing a good tantrum is part of a toddler’s job and a parent’s rite-of-passage.  And yes, despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes you buy the toy and leave the store or exit the restaurant as quickly as possible.

 

Helping Your Toddler Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping toddler

By Whitney Eaton, LCSW, Courier & Press, May 17, 2016 –

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night to little eyes staring at you or the quiet whisper of, “Mom?” For some little ones, getting a full night’s sleep is a tall order.

But for the parents who care for them, the struggle may be to function without sleep the next day. Starting the day sleep-deprived is not good for parent or child.

Toddlers bring so many joys, as they can now talk and are showing so much personality. Sometimes part of “self-expression” involves balking at bedtime.

Common bedtime challenges include battles with routine, not staying asleep or getting up way too early. All of these issues can be frustrating.

Equally problematic is the fact that it is hard to make rational decisions as a parent when you are sleep-deprived. Let’s face it, after a full day of work or caring for little ones, it can be a struggle to stick to a bedtime routine that will promote healthy sleep habits.

Some babies sleep like a dream initially and then develop problems with sleep patterns later. Why would a toddler suddenly have difficulty with bedtime when they have had months, or even years, of successful sleeping?

Any major transition such as having a new sibling, getting a new bed, or moving into a new home can cause sleep disruption.

Going from a crib to a toddler bed can also cause changes. A toddler learns they have freedom to get out of bed, explore and roam.

A toddler’s sleep patterns also typically change. As infants, most children take longer naps in the middle of the day that may last 1 to 3 hours. However, toddlers typically only need 1 to 2 hours for naptime.

So what can we do? We have all heard that routines and schedules are very important when it comes to bedtimes for infants and toddlers.

Coming up with a calming bedtime routine is definitely a great place to start. A warm bath, quiet time in your little one’s room, or reading a story before bed are just a few things you could incorporate into your bedtime schedule.

The key is to make bedtime a relaxing routine, one that “winds down” rather than “winds up” their day. Overstimulation before bed can cause difficulty with falling asleep.

Now how do we keep the little ones in bed? A sound machine or white noise machine can work wonders. Sometimes just having something to block out other noises can be beneficial to help your little one stay in bed and sleep more soundly.

A monitor allows you to listen or see if your child wakes up without actually going into the room. As long as your little one is safe, it is OK to let him cry a little before going into the room. In fact, it can be normal for your little one to wake up occasionally through the night. The best thing is for him to be able to soothe himself back to sleep.

Developing a rewards system can also be motivating for your toddler. Purchase a few low-cost items your child likes, such as stickers, bubbles, chalk or a book. If your toddler can stay in her room all night, then she can chose something from your prize basket.

If you incentivize the behavior, your toddler will soon put together that sleeping in his bed all night makes mommy and daddy happy. Then you will be able to slowly remove the tangible rewards and just offer praise each morning.

These are just a few ideas you could try to help your toddler (and you) sleep better. For more tips on parenting and building healthy habits, visityouthfirstinc.org. Sweet dreams!