Does your child experience very public meltdowns on a regular basis? Do you avoid public situations because your child is not “public ready?”  Think about trips to the grocery store, eating out at a restaurant, or running errands on Saturday morning.  My goal today, is that you have the opportunity to experience those day to day experiences without feeling embarrassed and out of control. Hopefully, I can give you some suggestions and tips to help minimize those occurrences and the intensity involved.

Be aware of your tone and how much you respond
– It’s important for parents to speak matter-of-factly, and be direct and to the point. Be consistent with your responses so that they know that you are not going to change your mind in two weeks.

Instead of…Johnny pleeeease get down from that chair
Try saying…Johnny, get down.

Instead of…
Suzi why do you always ask for candy when you know the answer is always no?
Try saying…(Unemotional) We are shopping for dinner, no you cannot have candy.

Clear Responses

– It’s vital that you are confident in the choices and decisions you are making, do not feel guilty about saying yes or no.

Instead of…We’ll see, It depends on…
Try saying…Yes or No.


When your “NO” turns into a meltdown.
– We are all too familiar with this meltdown in the middle of the grocery store, restaurant or social situation. Do not match the child’s emotional mood by responding emotionally.  By you becoming flustered or yelling, it will only escalate the situation. Make the conscious effort to ignore people around you.

Instead of…
Stop yelling right now!!
Instead of…You are embarrassing me, stand up this instant!
Try…In the restaurant, pulling out an activity bag and start putting together a puzzle or coloring a picture.
Try…Redirecting, “Johnny, I am making ham and cheese for lunch today do you want to help me pick out the cheese”

Try…Before entering, reminding them it’s a looking trip, and they can do x at home if they follow directions. If the meltdown starts, remind them they will not be getting x and move forward with grocery shopping.
Try…Sitting down next to them, until they finish their meltdown

Avoiding Meltdowns:

Set Clear Expectations, with specific requests. 

– Children (and adults) with ADD/ADHD, struggle with vague requests.
Instead of…You need to behave in the restaurant/store/grandma’s house
Try…I need you to hold your hand on the cart while we walk through the store.
Try…I need you to respond yes sir, no ma’am when your grandmother talks to you.
Try…Do not run.

Predict the Meltdowns, and avoid them. 

– Children (and adults) with ADD/ADHD, have patterns of times that they struggle. It’s important to be under the mind frame of “predicting” rather than “reacting.”

Instead of…
Waiting until the Failing grade comes for not turning in homework
Try…Checking in with teachers to ensure student is turning in homework.

Instead of…
Experiencing meltdowns before meal time
Try…Having a snack (granola bar or cheese) before the meal. (When humans are hungry, their bloodsugar drops and prevents them from being emotionally stable)

Instead of…
Walking through the candy isle
Try…Skipping that isle

Instead of…
Being bored in the restaurant, doctor’s office, etc
Try…Keeping an activity bag to occupy the child, teen, tween, teen, or adult who struggles to sit/wait for long periods of time.

Obviously, each family is different, with their own respective struggles. One intervention may work for one family but would not work for their next door neighbors.  It’s about finding what works for you and your family!  Do you have anything that works for you? Would love to hear from you!

Have a Fantastic Day!


Jennie Wilson is a child and adolescent therapist. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor