Christmas Tree

3 Tips for Managing Holiday Meltdowns

For many of us around the world, we are in the midst of the holiday season. And although the holiday season can be exciting and joyful, for many it can be a time of disrupted routines, new sensory stimuli in the environment and a time of uncertainty— especially this holiday season combined with a pandemic. All of these variables bundled together create the perfect storm for dysregulation leading to meltdowns for our clients, our children, and even ourselves. And so, I’m here to provide three tips for managing holiday meltdowns.

Tip #1 – Be Proactive

I’ve talked about this in past blog posts, so it won’t be a surprise when I say the most important thing you can do is be proactive in creating strategies that support your clients, your children and even yourself. I always start by creating Feel-Good Menus ahead of time so that we have an individualized list of activities that can be used to help promote comfortable feelings in the body. And at the same time proactively scheduling in Feel-Good Breaks. It’s important to emphasize the scheduling of these breaks, because waiting until a meltdown is looming or someone is in the midst of a meltdown to use a Feel-Good strategy—often does not work. The goal is to identify Feel-Good activities and schedule regular Feel-Good Breaks to help to prevent the meltdown from occurring in the first place.

Tip #2 – Gain Insight

Despite being proactive in creating a  Feel-Good Menu and scheduling Feel-Good Breaks, sometimes meltdowns are inevitable. And so, we really need to know how we can best support our clients, children or even ourselves during these meltdowns. And who better to get that information from then from the individual themselves. And so, if you are supporting someone that is able to give you input, it’s such an important conversation to have with them when they are in a calm thinking space. Ask them, “What can I do to be a good support to you during a meltdown? I care so much about you and I want to be the best I can be for you in those moments.” And so by asking these questions, we get insight into exactly what they want us to do, instead of what we think is best for them. By knowing what they need from us, what we can do to help them to feel safe, to feel heard, to feel supported in those really difficult moments is what’s going to be most valuable.

Managing Holiday Meltdowns: A Meltdown is not a Teachable Moment sign

Tip #3 – Be Present, Supportive & Kind

Many of us are in the helping field and we have an instinct to want to be helpful during a meltdown. This means that we might be trying to teach during these difficult moments. And meltdowns are not teachable moments. If any of you have taken a course with me before you know  I preach this over and over again. In fact, my good friend Deb Wilson at School Moves had the above plaque sent to me for my office. A meltdown is not a teachable moment. A meltdown is a time for us to be present, to be supportive, to be kind, to be quiet and do whatever that individual needs us to do to feel safe. We’re not placing demands on that individual, we’re not asking them to do anything. We’re just there for them– providing kind support and helping them move through that meltdown in a safe way.

I hope that these tips help you have a more smooth and enjoyable holiday season!

To take a deeper dive into interoception and being a positive support to those around you, check out our full list of resources developed specifically to help and inform.