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Parents of ADHD Children

Melt downs

My daughter came home from school today and wanted to go and play at a friend’s house. When I told her not today she started crying and has continued for over an hour. I gave her a break from her medicine during Christmas break and she didn’t have any melt downs. I dont know how to handle them. I hate to hear and see her so upset but also our family can’t stop everything to let her throw her fit.  I hate to see her so upset, do you guys have any tips on how to talk her off her ledge when they start??  Thanks


Here are a few suggestions that worked with my son, who is almost 9. He used to have epic meltdowns when he was younger and doesn’t have any meltdowns anymore.

1. Anticipate what will trigger a meltdown and plan accordingly.  For example, every morning I run through the day with my son.  For this morning, I said, “OK, so today I’ll pick you up from school and we’ll go home and have some dinner before your first basketball practice.  It’s going to be kind of a crazy day with basketball late, but it will be fun that you’ll be on the team with your friend.”

2. For my son, being hungry is a trigger for meltdowns.  As soon as I detect he is going south, I put a snack in front of him.  I don’t ask if he needs a snack, I just put it in front of him.  We’re at the point now where we can joke about it afterwards—a friend of mine calls this hunger meltdown “Hangry”—hungry and angry.  Makes me laugh every time. grin

3. Once he was in a meltdown, empathy Mama came out.  I’d say things like “I can really see that you really want to go play with your friend, but we can’t do it because we already said we’d go to basketball practice.”  Or “I can see this means a lot to you,” Or, “I can see your disappointed and it makes perfect sense. I’d be disappointed too in your shoes. Can we set up a play date on a day that works better for everyone?”

I’d say that of these three things, food and empathy have worked the best for my son.  The schedule run through for the day is more of a preventative measure than anything else.

Hope this helps!

Posted by MendelZ on Jan 09, 2014 at 3:53am

My son had very few meltdowns over the holidays too… it’s just because there’s generally less they don’t like to do.  No homework, less chores, more fun stuff.  (BTW, my son is 11 and the meltdowns are worse in spite of consistent consequences, etc.  They’re part of why I knew there was something not right with him.)

I’m reading The Explosive Child by Ross Greene at the moment.  I’m through all the explanations and just about to get into the solutions, so can’t really give you any answers yet.  It’s a book that was recommended to me over and over here, and then my son’s new psychiatrist also mentioned it when we met her.

Posted by Rai0414 on Jan 09, 2014 at 4:36am

The previous suggestions are great, I’m not sure what I can add except that I too read The Explosive Child by Ross Greene and it changed a lot in my house! I think now mornings are our biggest struggle before his meds kick in, after that I can’t complain too much considering how it was before I read this book and now he’s back on Vyvanse which for him has been a Godsend! Good luck and God Bless!

Posted by ADHDMoooM on Jan 09, 2014 at 5:54am

I agree with empathy.  Everyone wants to be heard, ADHD or not.  But imagine growing up knowing that you are not like everyone else, and know that your siblings and other people don’t feel things so intensely and then seemingly everytime you feel something strongly everyone around you sends you the message that you are wrong.  What would be the point in stopping anyway!

So, empathy works.  Reflect back to her what you see and wait until you get some feedback.  And allow whatever she feels to be alright.  And depending on how old she is you can check with her to see that you are “getting it”.  “I can see that you are angry, am I seeing that right?” and then just let her talk.  “I see”, “I hear you”, “Ah” all work well for listening responses.  I found “I understand” was a disaster with my daughter because it was always met with “No you don’t!”  I guess too presumptuous, too patronizing maybe.  “I hear that you want to go, that can’t happen today, let’s figure out when it can” great.  Another trigger word for my daughter is “but” because it always sounds like to her “I hear what you are saying BUT you’re wrong”.

My daughter even would say “I hate you. You’re the worst mother in the world” and I would just calmly say “That’s as may be, and yet homework still needs to get done (or whatever it is)”  The calmer you can stay for your child the better, because it gives them a mood to grab on to, get back to. I found when I got frustrated or upset it made it last longer.

I know you say you can’t stop all of life to let her melt down, but you can set parameters.  If she’s old enough to go to her room alone you could just let her go there till she feels she is ready to talk about it or move on.  Or put her somewhere she can stay till she is ready to calm down.  If she is over 7 or 8 she is ready to start self soothing her way out of a melt down, just let her and let her know you will be there when she’s gotten herself to calm down.  I think the impulse is to keep talking but I’ve learned that with both my ADHD family members less is definitely more when it comes to talking!

Posted by YellaRyan on Jan 09, 2014 at 9:25am

I agree, read The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. It changed our lives as far as meltdowns! He also has a website with lots of free information at He also did an expert webinar with recently and you can listen or read the transcript here:

I hope that helps!

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jan 09, 2014 at 6:50pm

Thanks for all the good advice. I think if I can change the way I handle these situation, then maybe they won’t get so out of hand. I need to work on my phrasing and try to be more caring at the time rather than trying to hurry through it!

Posted by Leydibug on Jan 11, 2014 at 3:08am

The thing I always wanted when I melted down was someone to listen and try to understand. My parents clearly didn’t understand, and my Dad thought I was simply being overdramatic. I think my Mom knew I couldn’t control my meltdowns, but she had no idea what to do.
Just listen. Try to understand, and be honest.
Planning ahead/previewing the day seems like a smart idea, too. Whenever my personal, internal plans that I’d looked forward to for any length of time (hours, days, it didn’t matter!) got “ruined,” it was the END OF THE WORLD. But 9 times out of 10, I’d forgotten that something ELSE had already been planned for that block of time I’d decided to reserve for myself.
I’m learning to use the calendar on my phone, and I have 2 calendars near my desk at home, and one on my desk at work. I do my best to program plans immediately into my phone, and I’ve gotten in the habit of checking it weekly.
Changing from a period of “no routine” back to a routine of responsibility & lots of structure can be a harsh time. When school breaks are imminent, I’d suggest creating a routine similar to the one during school: meal times at the same time…
Yep; HANGRY. or HALT: Hungry, angry, lonely, tired. The second is when NOT to make decisions, but it also lists the situations when one is more likely to “snap.”
Be patient & set limits. But do your best to let your child know that no matter what, you still love them, always will, and that you DO want to understand them & help them through the trials. smile

Posted by Utena42 on Jan 12, 2014 at 12:26am

Magnesium supplements and fish oil supplements have helped our dd tremendously. Also I add 1 cup Epsom salt to her bath water for the magnesium to be absorbed through the skin.

Posted by Ninearrows on Jan 12, 2014 at 11:55pm

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