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9 Things NOT to Say to Your ADHD Child

9 Things NOT to Say to Your ADHD Child

Parenting a child with ADHD can be a monumental challenge. All the creativity and fun that oozes out of your child comes to a screeching halt when they have an ADHD meltdown.

Like so many things, knowing what is happening is an important step to managing intense feelings. If you’re just overwhelmed with anxiety and confusion than you might handle the meltdown with an angry outburst.

Learning strategies to cope with ADHD meltdowns is a never ending process. You have to learn and re-learn these lessons because time will pass in between emotional outbursts and you will forget exactly what worked.

If you are a parent having a hard time with impulsive symptoms of ADHD than I urge you to read on. I stand in solidarity with all the parents who have lost their cool during an ADHD meltdown.

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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or mental health professional

things not to say during adhd meltdown

Understanding ADHD Meltdowns

What Are ADHD Meltdowns?

An ADHD meltdown is an intense emotional response that occurs when you’re overwhelmed. It’s common in people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulty in maintaining attention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. During a meltdown, you may experience a range of emotions, such as frustration or anger, due to an overload of emotional or sensory stimuli.

Causes of Emotional Dysregulation

ADHD symptoms contribute to emotional dysregulation, which often underlies these meltdowns. Your ADHD brain may have trouble with executive function, making it difficult for you to regulate your feelings. Different triggers, such as stress, perceived failure, or feeling misunderstood, can instigate an emotional outburst.

The Neurodivergent Brain and Meltdowns

The neurochemistry of your brain plays a significant role in emotional regulation. Since ADHD is linked to the way neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine work in your brain, this can affect how emotions are managed. Understanding the neurodivergent aspects of ADHD, including executive function challenges and brain chemistry, can help in finding strategies to cope with and prevent ADHD meltdowns.

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Common Triggers of ADHD Meltdowns

When you’re managing ADHD, understanding what can spark a meltdown is crucial. A meltdown is often a response to overwhelming feelings that can’t be expressed in a calmer way. Dealing with symptoms, like misplaced belongings or forgotten commitments, often leads to such intense reactions.

Environmental Factors and Sensory Triggers

Bright lights, loud noises, and sensory inputs can be overwhelming. If your child is sensitive to these stimuli, they can rapidly lead to sensory overload, which might trigger an ADHD meltdown. Times of high stimulation, such as playing video games or being in a noisy environment, require extra care.

common triggers of adhd meltdown

Recognizing Sensory Sensitivity

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can accompany ADHD and might heighten a reaction to sensory input. Common symptoms of sensory overload, such as restlessness or irritability, are signs that an environment is becoming too much. Strong smells or extreme temperatures can also provoke a meltdown.

Identifying Your Personal Triggers

Familiarize yourself with your child’s triggers to prevent meltdowns. The Child Mind Institute suggests that individual differences mean triggers can vary greatly. By noting the “heat of the moment” factors, you can manage your or your child’s ADHD and reduce the number of overwhelming incidents.

What NOT to Say During an ADHD Meltdown

When someone is experiencing an ADHD meltdown, every comment can significantly impact their emotional state. It’s important to avoid saying things that may worsen the situation.

1. “Just Calm Down”

Telling someone to “Just calm down” will feel dismissive of their intense emotions. It may imply that their feelings are easy to control, which isn’t the case during an ADHD meltdown.

2. “Stop Crying Over Nothing”

This statement invalidates the genuine struggle a kid may be facing. The emotional reactions during an ADHD meltdown are real and significant to them.

stop crying is not good during meltdown

3. “You’re Being Dramatic”

Suggesting that a person’s emotions are an overreaction can make them feel misunderstood. This can exacerbate their feeling that they’re not being taken seriously.

4. “Why Can’t You Be Like Your Sibling/Friend?”

Comparisons to others are not helpful and can increase feelings of inadequacy and stress during an ADHD meltdown.

5. “I’ll Give You Something to Cry About”

This threat can trigger a flight response and fear, making the person feel unsafe, which can escalate the situation.

6. “You Know Better Than This”

This phrase implies malicious intent and may make the person feel guilty for something they find difficult to control during an ADHD meltdown.

7. “Just Wait till We Get Home”

Threats of delayed consequences can add anxiety to the current overwhelming emotions, serving to intensify the meltdown rather than resolve it.

avoid some words during meltdown

8. “Stop Making a Scene”

This comment can make someone feel ashamed for their public emotional reactions, which are often uncontrollable in the moment.

9. “I Don’t Know What to Do With You”

Expressing helplessness can leave the person in the midst of an ADHD meltdown feeling even more isolated and unsupported. All this will do is heighten their emotional distress.

Effective Strategies to Calm an ADHD Meltdown

Create a Calm Environment

Establishing a calm environment is a crucial step in mitigating an ADHD meltdown. Direct your child to find comfort in a space that is free of excess stimuli, with gentle lighting and reduced noise levels. This physical setting can provide a basis for relaxation and make other calming techniques more effective.

Utilize Deep Breathing

Deep breathing exercises are an important tool in their arsenal to stabilize intense emotions. Slowly help them take deep breaths, counting to four as they inhale and again as they exhale. This technique can serve as a cornerstone for personal growth in self-regulation during an ADHD meltdown.

Speak in a Calm Voice

When your child is experiencing heightened emotions, remind them to listen to their internal dialogue in a calm voice. This can influence their emotional state significantly. The tone of their own self-talk can have a refrigerant effect on their stress levels.

speak in calm voice

Practice Self-Soothing Techniques

Have your child use of self-soothing techniques that resonate with them. It may include sensory activities like holding a stress ball, listening to quiet music, or sipping a warm beverage. These practices can divert attention from distress and foster a sense of control.

Apply Behavioral Therapy Principles

Incorporating principles of behavioral therapy can be a good way to anticipate potential meltdown triggers and develop coping strategies. Recognize your child’s patterns, and work on proactive tactics like positive reinforcement, which can reinforce desired behaviors and emotional responses.

Building a Support System

When you’re dealing with ADHD meltdowns, having a robust support system can make a significant difference. It’s important to have both emotional and practical support tailored to the unique challenges of ADHD.

Seek Professional Guidance

Start by consulting with your child’s doctor or a mental health professional. They can provide individualized advice and may recommend treatments such as social skills training or parent training programs. It may also be beneficial to seek help from professionals who specialize in ADHD to gain more targeted strategies.

seek professional guidance and engage in community

Engage with Parent Networks

For parents of ADHD children, connecting with others in similar situations can be incredibly valuable. Parent networks can offer practical advice, emotional support, and a sense of community. These groups often share resources like positive reinforcement techniques that can be effective during challenging times.

Emphasize Positive Strategies

Incorporate positive reinforcement in your approach. Praise and rewards for managing emotions can encourage your child and reinforce good behavior. This positive approach helps in creating an environment where your child feels supported and understood during an adhd meltdown.

Encouraging Positive Behavior Outside of Meltdowns

When dealing with ADHD in young children, establishing daily routines can significantly contribute to reducing the frequency of an ADHD meltdown. Consistent routines provide structure that helps with impulse control and the completion of daily tasks. Start by breaking down tasks into manageable steps, ensuring your child understands and can follow along.

In nurturing positive behavior, positive reinforcement proves effective. Celebrate the victories, no matter how small, and reward good behavior consistently. Use a system of tangible rewards or privileges to encourage your child to repeat those good behaviors.

Engage in regular physical activity with your child as part of your routine. Exercise is not only a healthy habit but it also aids in managing impulses and burning off excess energy. This can help improve concentration and potentially decrease the likelihood of meltdowns.

Teach your child to recognize social cues through role-playing and games. This skill can help children interpret situations more accurately, leading to better social interactions and reducing instances of frustration.

Lastly, provide clear and simple instructions for your child to follow. Praise their efforts and guide them to understand the impact of their actions, emphasizing the importance of positive behavior. Your patience and consistent guidance can make a significant difference.

positive behavior

Towards a More Supportive Tomorrow

Recognizing an ADHD meltdown as a natural response to overwhelming situations plays a significant role in personal growth. Understanding the key differences between a meltdown and a tantrum helps you manage potential problems effectively. It’s crucial to identify the root cause, which may stem from emotional dysregulation or a sensory overload.

To improve day-to-day lives, it’s necessary to learn strategies that support self-regulation and coping. This includes creating environments that reduce overwhelming stimuli. Encouraging personal growth involves learning and applying skills that help mitigate triggers of ADHD meltdowns.

For young individuals with ADHD, their well-being is partly hinged on the comprehension and actions of those around them. When you appreciate and integrate this knowledge into your care approach, you contribute positively to their development. Empathy and proactive communication are valuable tools in guiding them toward a more regulated emotional state.

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FAQ: ADHD Meltdown


  • Veronica Hanson

    Veronica Hanson blogs from whatever country she happens to be in at the time, currently she's hanging out in Japan. She's been living as a nomad remote entrepreneur with her family since 2020.

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