Today, let’s talk about managing meltdowns in your homeschooling. Here are some ideas on how you can help a child who is in the midst of feeling overwhelmed.
This is part four of my Top Ten Tips for Homeschooling series. Find links to the other tips below.
Due to human nature, meltdowns are inevitable in homeschool. Some are minor and decently “consolable.” With patience and adult wisdom, you can usually steer the minor “melter” back on track. In doing so, you’re teaching them to problem solve and manage ordinary stress. (Teach this often and teach this well!) But some meltdowns are far more serious than that and require much more than patience.
A major meltdown, in my experience, is when a child seemingly out of nowhere spirals downward into an emotional stupor that he or she cannot get out of. For reasons you may not understand, this child is “non-consolable.” In fact, the more you cheerlead this kind of child, the further he or she plummets into despair. By all appearances, this child isn’t trying to lose it and wasn’t planning on writhing on the floor in tears. (Of course, some do and that’s a topic on manipulation.) But, with heightened senses toward light, sound, smell, touch, and stress, some children will collapse into a puddle of emotions and become completely overwhelmed by circumstances that others will handle just fine. What do you do with this kind of child? Sadly, it depends on the time you have.
If you have the time right then and there to deal with the problem, I suggest you separate this child from the overwhelming situation. Remove obstacles and distractions to help you reach their hurting heart. Lovingly talk through their pain and despair. Pray with them about their angst and exasperation. Coax them back to reality, which they have probably distorted. You love this child. Let them know it.
If you don’t have time to deal with the problem because you’re with a group in public or trying to get to an appointment, inform the child that this meltdown will have to wait until later! You acknowledge that they’re losing it but you give the melter some boundaries. This may mean you physically pick them up, strap their shoes on them, wipe their tears, and carry them to the car or your next stop (or “escort” them if they’re bigger than you!)
This physical intervention is not a bad choice for you and the child, but it’s not a long-term solution. Assure this child that you will be talking about this meltdown later when you can offer love, prayer, consolation, and problem-solving in the event that this is diet-related, a relational issue, or a sensory problem. You may not be able to “fix” your little melter. In extreme cases of anxiety, you may need some professional guidance. In the interim, you can lead them to the Lord who loves them even more than you do.
Top Ten Tips for Homeschooling Series