How Can I Stop My Daughter's Emotional Meltdowns?
By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist
I'm really worried about my daughter. She seems so exhausted when she comes home from school, and she doesn't want to talk about school at all. My husband and I have to pry the information out of her.
She says she likes school but is not happy about going. She gets really emotional when she gets home. Anything will trigger a meltdown. She went to preschool for two years. The first year was two days a week for four hours and the second year was three days a week for four hours. Now kindergarten is five days a week for seven hours. I just want to know what I can do to help her get past these emotional meltdowns and help her be excited about school.
I would recommend talking to your daughter's kindergarten teacher to get a better sense of what is going on at school.
Some questions to ask include:
- What does she like to do during the school day?
- Does she have friends? Does she seem tired during the school day?
- Does she have emotional "meltdowns" in school?
- If so, what triggers them?
The responses to these questions will give you a better sense of how your daughter is adjusting to kindergarten.
If your daughter's teacher expresses concerns about her adjustment to kindergarten, you will need to work with the teacher to identify the best strategies for helping your daughter in school. These strategies will vary depending on the nature of the teacher's concerns. For example, if the teacher reports that your daughter seems tired during the school day it may be possible to arrange for her to have a nap at school. If the teacher reports your daughter is having difficulty making friends, it may be helpful for the teacher to facilitate interaction between her and other students by organizing some structured activities during free time in the classroom.
By working collaboratively with the teacher and enlisting the help of other school staff members (i.e. school social worker or psychologist) if necessary, you should be able to successfully address whatever challenges your daughter may be having adjusting to kindergarten.
If your conversation with your daughter's teacher indicates that she is doing OK in school, you will need to figure out what is triggering her emotional meltdowns at home. To do this, pay close attention to what happens before and after a meltdown. Is she having them to avoid doing something or to get something? Once you determine what may be triggering her behavior, you will be better able to prevent it.
For example, if she is having a meltdown to avoid talking about school you may decide not to ask her any questions about school and wait for her to talk about school spontaneously. If she trying to get something, like attention from you or your husband, you may want to schedule play time with her on a daily basis.
If your daughter continues to have meltdowns despite your best efforts to prevent them, I would recommend speaking to a child psychologist or other mental health professional who can help you more systematically determine what may be causing them and how to address them.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.