7 DO’s and DON’Ts after your Child’s Public Meltdown

Family / Friday, June 27th, 2014

7 DOs and DON'Ts After Your Child's Public Meltdown | thisgratefulmama.com

Our family recently took a 6 day trip to Maine for our niece’s wedding. The wedding was amazing. Our son was possibly the cutest ring bearer EVER. Yes, I’m biased.

The flight to Maine with our 3 and 1 year old kids was surprisingly pleasant.

While I didn’t expect our return trip to be AS smooth, I certainly didn’t anticipate my son’s meltdown IN the airport, OR my usually easygoing daughter’s inconsolable cries screams in flight.

We decided to eat before the flight to prevent the hangries (i.e. SO hungry you’re ANGRY). We split two huge burgers between the four of us.

A good idea…until I gave some to my daughter.

Our hangry son wanted a whole burger. Tears streaming, feet stomping, trying to flee; he was OUT OF CONTROL. Not desirable behavior for the airport (or anywhere).

15 minutes later, we convinced him to either calm down and eat, or have NOTHING.

His public meltdown left me embarrassed and nervous about the looming flight. Thankfully, he was great on the plane.

If only his meltdown was the end of our travel drama.

Our daughter’s ears must have hurt. During the 2.5 hour flight, she screamed intermittently until she passed out with 20 minutes left. My biggest concern going into the flight was a poopy diaper; screaming was SO out of character.

Ugh. A stinky diaper would have been SO. Much. BETTER.

After snacks, rocking, toys, and distraction with the tablet failed, our emergency plan was to give each child a sucker.

She was a sticky, spitty mess. 

AND it ran out before we landed, so she had TWO. AND she screamed off and on anyway, flailing that sticky sucker into my hair.

I felt terrible for her. I felt even worse for passengers who drew the short straw and had to sit near us. She raised a ruckus. When she FINALLY passed out, I held my numb, tingling arms completely still, and prayed she would not wake.

My husband and I were frazzled and felt like we’d been through a war – with emotions flying high, it felt like the whole trip had been a stressful disaster.

But in reality, it wasn’t. Each child had exactly ONE meltdown in 6 days. During the last 20 minutes of the flight, I tried to ‘reset’ my own attitude about the trip.

7 DO’s and DON’Ts after your Child’s Public Meltdown

1. DO cut the child some slack

Acknowledge circumstances before the meltdown. Most of the time, over-stimulation, lack of sleep, or hunger may be to blame. Be grateful it didn’t happen earlier! In our case, neither child was trying to be naughty, noisy or embarrassing. They slept in strange beds, stayed up late, and were over stimulated from activities and family fun. They were exhausted.

2. DON’T keep bringing it up

When your child is finally calm and old enough to talk about it, discuss why the behavior was not OK. Then FORGIVE and MOVE ON. I like to pray with them and then hug to signal we’re done with it. Don’t bring it up again. Re-living it keeps your stress level up, and reminds your child that they were recently upset; with potential to be upset again. There will be time to analyze and determine what could have been done differently LATER, when the emotions have settled. If you’re having trouble, STOP and pray about it, and if necessary, just be SILENT.

3. DO the math

Take stock of their behavior OVER ALL. Recognize all the good moments and don’t let one 15 minute meltdown characterize their entire day. In all likelihood, this meltdown is less than 1% of the day, even if it felt like an eternity. CHOOSE to remember the good stuff.

4. DON’T allow embarrassment to alter your parenting

Be consistent regardless of the environment. Giving our son the whole hamburger to quiet him would have sent a message that his behavior was OK. The next time we share food, we’d likely deal with the same thing all over again.

5. DO take compliments from strangers  

A man sitting by us took time to tell us we were patient and did better than he did when his kids were small. I initially brushed it off, but in reality, we did do well! We did everything we could, using our preset backup plan (suckers) when needed, but stayed patient and recognized her ears probably hurt. Strangers do NOT have to say anything to you – so if they do, accept it as truth!

6. DON’T criticize, or worse, blame, anyone 


7. DO build each other up

You and anyone with you will be frazzled. Encourage each other, and encourage your child. Emotions are running high. Extra grace and kind words will help everyone move on.

Despite a somewhat emotional travel day, the kids were amazingly well behaved during the rest of our 6 day trip. Considering this included new surroundings, late nights and a busy schedule – they did great! It would be easy to focus on the chaotic end of the trip, and say we won’t travel with the kids anymore or until they are bigger. But doing that is an error that will cause us to miss out on great family memories and amazing places.

Here is a family picture from the wedding, and how I choose to remember our vacation.

Here is how I CHOOSE to remember our trip
Here is how I CHOOSE to remember our vacation


7 DOs and DON'Ts After Your Child's Public Meltdown | thisgratefulmama.com7 DO's And DON'Ts After Your Child's Public Meltdown | thisgratefulmama.com

9 Replies to “7 DO’s and DON’Ts after your Child’s Public Meltdown”

  1. Oh Elaine!! your trip sound like it went great…a few meltdowns here and there aren’t a huge deal:)
    Trying taking a 1 year old and a 4 year old across an ocean on a 9 hour flight, 4 hour layover, and 5 hour flight right after…..and just for the fun of it,,,lets include sitting on the tarmac for 90 minutes (mechanical problems) , a NON RECLINING SEAT(my back still hurts thinking about it!) ……AND to top it off a febrile seizure somewhere over the Atlantic(first one ever…super scary!!).. and the captain asking if he should bring the plane down!!!
    Just think… it can ALWAYS be worst…. if you aren’t sure just call me !!!
    i am glad you had a great time,,,, you have a wonderful family 🙂

    1. Samia! O my! That certainly puts this in perspective and points out what a rockstar mom you are. I am so impressed how you travel overseas with your kids and do it with such grace.

  2. […] Now, I’m not saying my kids are unruly or unmanageable without snacks. Most of the time, they are great. I can count on one hand times our kids have melted in the store – with or without snacks. They know how to behave. But when it comes to kids, even with the best laid plans, melt-downs do sometimes happen so we need to be prepared to deal with them with grace and move on. […]

  3. I remember when my son was a toddler and threw a tantrum, I was so concerned with what everybody else would think (I am a horrible mom, I cannot manage my child, this child is spoiled and so on). No, looking back, I realize that you cannot control what others think, nor should their thoughts be a priority for you. We, moms, are doing our best. And we are all awesome moms :))))

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