Whole Picture Parenting

A holistic approach to children's emotional and behavioural challenges

BLOG:   27 February 2023


The Parental Meltdown

- or -

How understanding our own feelings

can help our children understand theirs


Ok, let’s be really honest… children aren’t the only ones who have meltdowns. Sometimes, parents have them too!

Blowing your top can take a massive blow to your confidence as a parent. But what if your meltdowns held the key to making you a better parent?


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging parents to have meltdowns. But rather than spending your energy beating yourself up about not being a good enough parent, why not spend that energy on becoming an even better parent?



In the Moment

If you feel yourself getting triggered and just about to burst, that’s great. No, really! This moment of realisation is everything. If you can take a calming breath and check your mindset, that gives you a really good chance of averting your meltdown.

You are likely to be feeling triggered because of what you are thinking. So if your thoughts run along the lines of “he is doing this to spite me”, “she doesn’t respect me”  or any number of other negative thoughts – let those go. Recognise that your child’s behaviour is caused by their own emotional struggle, not by a desire to defy or manipulate you. If your child could live up to your expectations right now, they would!

Remind yourself that you are good enough and that this is just a difficult moment. Every parent has them. Make a conscious decision to calm and see if you can connect with your child to engage their cooperation. Being curious about the reasons for your child’s behaviour might help you to tune into what the problem is and how to resolve it. Bringing some lightness to the situation by singing your instructions or having the teddy bear deliver the message might help your child to tune into what you need them to do. What would make you and your child laugh and break the tension? Connection is the key!




If you missed that by-pass and instead steered straight for the full-blown parental meltdown, shouted at your kids, said or did things that you are not feeling so great about… 

Don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself some time to calm down. Check in with your kids. Are they all right? Were their feelings hurt? Were they frightened? Listen to them and acknowledge their experience. Apologise. Let them know that you are sorry you exploded. Let them know that you are learning about better ways to calm yourself, so things don’t get so heated in the future.




What is your meltdown telling you about your feelings? What are your feelings telling you about your needs? As a parent, we often prioritise our children’s needs over our own. But if our own needs are constantly falling by the wayside, it’s easy to crash and burn.

Can you prioritise the things you need to feel calm and energised? Perhaps it’s giving yourself enough sleep each night, time to exercise or meditate. Perhaps it’s eating healthy food or making time to spend with good friends. What do you need to recharge and find your emotional balance?

Is something about daily family life clashing with your needs? It might be a predictable issue which arises time and time again. Perhaps you have a need for peace and quiet, physical order or connection that is repeatedly neglected? If so, take some time out of the moment to gain clarity about the problem and how it might be solved. Can you connect with your children and/or partner to brainstorm a way to do things differently that works for everyone?



We can only teach our children what we have learned ourselves. If we can learn to calm, work out what is triggering our own feelings and create a constructive way of dealing with things, it makes us great role-models for our children to learn how to manage their emotions. Strong emotions are part of being human. They don’t need to elicit feelings of guilt and shame. Instead, they can guide us to understanding ourselves and each other.

Remember to be kind to yourself. You do not need to be perfect (or a robot) to be a good parent. Knowing yourself, accepting your own needs and limitations and finding constructive ways of problem solving is the best way forward.