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Expert GuidanceHow to Handle a Meltdown

How to Handle a Meltdown

Jon and Sam discuss how to find empathy during meltdown moments, and they share techniques for mindfully handling big emotions in kids and teens.

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(soft music) Welcome back to Audio Lesson 6, Dealing With Distress. So distress will probably look different for your child depending on their age, but especially if you have a toddler or a teenager, meltdowns and big emotions can be a regular occurrence. John, why does our child's distress bring up so many emotions for us as parents? That's a really big question. It's often a combination of caring and wanting good things for them and wanting to feel like we're doing a good job as a parent and not wanting to be perceived as not doing a good job by others. It makes me think about possible ways of greeting our own distress when it happens. I find self-compassion to be really helpful in those moments. And the way self-compassion is practiced is to first just pause and acknowledge that this is a moment of distress. So calling out and identifying the emotion just brings the intensity down. And then maybe even putting a hand on the heart or just some warm tender touch, grabbing your arm or hands and just saying, this is hard. This is a difficult moment. And then to remind yourself that you're not alone, that all parents around the world are experiencing moments like this. So that takes some of the shame and the feeling of isolation or loneliness out of the equation so that you can fully accept it as it is because it's happening. And then the last part is to say something kind to yourself. This is temporary. This is gonna be over in a few minutes. So something like that. But walking through those steps allows us to stay resilient. Great point, Sam. Some of the moments, I will say this myself as a parent, where I felt least effective or I wasn't my best self, when I was winging it, when I was trying to come up with a consequence on the fly, when I was trying to extinguish instead of notice an emotion of my child. And so having a plan, having an approach to notice the emotion, empathize or support that emotion is understandable, and then deliver supportive content after will be helpful moving forward. Absolutely. And I really think that word is so appropriate, extinguish. Maybe we can give an example of what trying to extinguish an emotion sounds like, and then what is it like to do something different, like acknowledge the emotion? I had a wonderful teacher of mine and she would always tell this story about her son, how there was one time she was buckling him into the car seat and she had denied a third cupcake as they left this birthday party. And he said, "Mom, I want to kill you." At that moment, all sorts of potential responses flooded in her. She took a breath and she says, "I think you're angry with me. Are you angry with me?" "Yes," he says. "Yeah, that makes sense. I would be angry...


TypeExpert Guidance
Duration7 min

About your teachers

  • A former Buddhist monk, Andy has guided people in meditation and mindfulness for 20 years. In his mission to make these practices accessible to all, he co-created the Headspace app in 2010.

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  • Eve is a mindfulness teacher, overseeing Headspace’s meditation curriculum. She is passionate about sharing meditation to help others feel less stressed and experience more compassion in their lives.

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  • As a meditation teacher, Dora encourages others to live, breathe, and be with the fullness of their experiences. She loves meditation’s power to create community and bring clarity to people’s minds.

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  • Kessonga has been an acupuncturists, therapist, and meditation teacher, working to bring mindfulness to the diverse populations of the world.

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  • Rosie Acosta has studied yoga and mindfulness for more than 20 years and taught for over a decade. Rosie’s mission is to help others overcome adversity and experience radical love.

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