Managing meltdowns: Workshops in Williams Lake aim to help navigate parenting

The Women’s Contact Society hosted its second free workshop on children’s challenging behaviours with the hot topic of the night being meltdowns.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, families and caregivers attended in person and over Zoom, listening to occupational therapist Katie Crosby discuss how to manage meltdowns.

Crosby discussed the importance of nourishing the whole system, which starts with parents and caregivers. When kids express big emotions, it can throw the adult into feelings of threat and insecurity, she said. The key is that by regulating the adult self, kids will be more regulated.

“When a kid is having an emotion, it’s just that,” said Crosby, noting it doesn’t have to affect the adult.

Crosby described emotions and the autonomic nervous system as a ladder. On the top steps of the ladder children and adults feel safe, social and engaged (the connected state). On the middle steps of the ladder are feelings of agitation and being frantic (the protective state). The bottom steps of the ladder leave people feeling numb, collapsed and shut down (the disconnected state).

When children are having a hard time, outward behaviours such as hitting, kicking, running away and laughing are all signs of the child being in a fight, flight or freeze mode, Crosby explained. These behaviours symbolize the child needing help — a hand up the ladder.

By co-regulating ourselves as adults, we help children return to a co-regulated state, said Crosby.

Crosby shared the following tips to help co-regulate.

Connect with the child so they feel safe. You can do this by using your own energy, body language, volume and tone of voice along with the speed of language.

Move closer to the child, perhaps kneeling down, and use your hands, facial expressions and body to ask them, “What’s going on?”

Get curious about what’s happening in the child, not reactive.

Mimic their energy, for example, “You didn’t want the banana cut up, that’s frustrating.”

Give them a hug or if they don’t want physical touch, simply nod so they can talk.

When a child is having a meltdown, Crosby reminds people to use few words and avoid teaching during meltdowns, as when children are in a dysregulated state, they aren’t in a place to hear or understand you.

She also suggested adding or subtracting the sensory information around the child. Subtraction would be things like dimming the lights and turning the volume down. Adding would be rocking the child, humming quietly (shh) or even taking them on a walk. Sensory regulation is especially important for children seven and under, said Crosby.

The next workshop is on March 13. Toys and activities will be provided for any children attending. Those who do not live in Williams Lake can join via Zoom.

To register for the free workshops, email [email protected] or call 250-392-4118. As a reminder, the Women’s Contact Society’s new location is 202-350 Barnard Street in Williams Lake.

READ MORE: Women’s Contact Society to host workshops on children’s challenging behaviours

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