Dealing with meltdowns as a parent: Autism experts on how to stay calm

Caroline Allen
·Contributor
·2-min read

Many parents will be familiar with the feeling of getting on a plane with a child only to see people visibly recoil, hoping you’re not sitting near them.

Children have tantrums for a whole range of reasons, but a meltdown - that is associated with children who have autism - is different. It’s an intense response to an overwhelming situation.

In Yahoo UK’s recent episode of The Baby Bump with Lauren Pope, Pope, who is 35 weeks pregnant, admits that she feels “tense” when people look at her in public.

Nikki Saunders, author of My Awesome Autism, and educational psychologist, Claire Prosser, weigh in on this anxiety that parents have and discuss ways to stay calm when in tense situations.

Some parents find children's meltdowns difficult to manage. (Getty Images)
Some parents find children's meltdowns difficult to manage. (Getty Images)

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It’s well researched that children pick up on their parents’ moods, meaning if they’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s likely their children will feed off of that energy.

For Saunders, she believes that giving children love when they’re feeling overwhelmed by a situation is the best thing you can do.

“Rush in, give them lots of love and nurturing and try to talk them out of it.

“Members of the public can be so lovely and want to help and talk at the same time as you,” she explains.

In many situations, other people jumping in and offering support is welcomed by parents, but it’s not the case for all children.

“If you can imagine a few different radios going off at the same time around you, all we’re doing really (by talking at the same time) is amplifying it.

“The best thing we can do is just be there and give them hugs.”

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“Whether people were judging me or not, I felt judged,” Prosser admitted, speaking about how she felt in the early days after her son’s autism diagnosis.

Many parents will relate to this feeling of being judged, with people being made to feel like that by outsiders in relation to the choices they make as parents. In some cases, as Prosser mentions, people might not be judging you, but it doesn’t stop parents from feeling these pressures.

If you notice your child is having a meltdown it’s often a good idea to put together a diary to piece together what is happening before this occurs.

“Lots of different things can cause anxiety and pressure for our children,” she explains, and even something as simple as a clock ticking is worth noting down.

“That’s really important - as a parent - to help you stay calm. It’s when we feel out of control we get quite anxious and worked up.

“By keeping something like a diary it gives us control over the situation.”