Understanding Your Child

Having A Melt-Down…

YFS and other local organisations provide support for families that are struggling with their children’s behaviour and development. One of our managers, Carolyn, has put together some information for parents who are struggling with their children’s behaviour.

Have You Ever Tried To Talk To A Child While They Are Having A ‘Melt-Down’?
You’d probably agree that trying to reason with a little one and get them to calm down when they are in melt-down mode often does not end well for you or the child.

Why Is It So Hard For Them To See Reason?
Infants and young children’s brains are not yet fully developed and wired for them to be able to regulate their emotions. Psychiatrist and authority on children’s brain development, Dr Bruce Perry describes the brain as developing from “the bottom up”. So trying to reason with a young child and expecting them to deal with those big emotions probably won’t work.
Dr Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics sounds fancy, but in basic terms he recommends working through a bottom-up sequence to help children come to a place of calm and clarity.

How Can You Help Your Child Progress Through This Sequence?
By using the three R’s – Regulate, Relate and Reason!

Regulate – co-regulate with your child. Babies’ and toddlers’ brains cannot regulate their emotions, they rely on their parents and caregivers to ‘co-regulate’. Help them feel safe in and outside their bodies.
• Be aware of your own emotions
• Slow your breathing
• Use a calm voice
• Move gently – rocking and rhythmic movements
• Calm music or a change of scenery – look out the window or go outside

Relate – help your child feel heard and acknowledged.
• Name the feelings – say “I can see you’re sad/angry/frustrated.”
• Acknowledge and show empathy -“It’s hard when we feel….”
• Let them feel their feelings. The message is that emotions are okay
• Avoiding isolating your child, they need to feel connected

Reason – if your child feels safe and loved they will be able to learn from their experiences. There is opportunity to help your child make better choices.
• Get on your child’s level
• Remind them that feelings are okay and talk about how to manage them positively
• Re-direct their behaviour
• Provide alternatives – focus on what they can do

The more you can support your child to get to reason and stay in reason, the better they will be able to problem solve, communicate and manage their behaviour.

For tips on understanding and managing a child’s behaviour when they are stressed visit raisingchildren.net.au

For more information about YFS call 3826 1500 or email Judith Hunter at judithh@yfs.org.au