Parents of kids mid-meltdown get support instead of judgment, and it's so dang beautiful

Practically everyone who has had kids knows that meltdowns happen. Whether it's a two-year-old who doesn't know how to express themselves or an older kid who is having a particularly rough life moment, children sometimes lose control of their emotions. Unfortunately, meltdowns that happen in public can bring the Judgey McJudgertons out of the woodwork—which is why a Twitter thread of parents receiving kindness and support instead of side-eye and judgment has parents breathing a sigh of relief.


Writer Joy McCullough shared a brief but beautiful story on Twitter that got thousands of shares and prompted parents to share their own stories of strangers' kindness in their darkest parenting moments.


"Toddler is melting down in the library," McCullough wrote. "The mom is mortified. A stern old lady approaches & I hold my breath. 'It's okay,' she tells the mom. 'I've been there. You're doing great.' And then to the toddler, 'You're doing great, too. You're doing your best.'

Now THAT is what every parent—and toddler, for that matter—needs to hear in the midst of a meltdown moment.

Other parents chimed in with stories of their own, and they're the balm all parents of young kids need.


One mom shared how her son was having a public meltdown a few years ago and she was on the verge of tears herself trying to calm him down, when and older woman came over and asked if she could walk with them for a bit.

"She pushed my cart with my son in it while I grabbed our groceries (and monitored) and just talked quietly to my son for a few minutes. He was quiet and listened to her. Once he was calm she patted my arm, said 'it takes a village, right?' and went on her way. She was my angel."

Seriously, unless you've been there at your wit's end as a parent, you can't imagine how helpful someone's kindness and understanding can be.


And other times just a few words of encouragement while you're trying to wrangle an unruly, overtired kiddo can make a world of difference. A simple shout out like "Be strong, mama!" can be just the boost you need to not completely melt down your self.

The thread includes a few "yOuR ToDdelR iS mAnipUlatTinG yOU!" comments from the get-off-my-lawn crowd, but they are far outweighed by stories of support and understanding.


"7yo melted down in hardware store," wrote Melissa Harris. "I did my best to keep calm and calm him. Get to checkout & woman came up to me. She wanted me to know that she thought I had done an amazing job and even in a meltdown my son was cute. Made my month."


"Those moments mean so much to a parent," added Alexa Winton. "My 4yo daughter had literal Roid rage on a flight (steroids for asthma) and the lady next to us only said to me "I forgot how hard it is to travel with young children" And I will never forget that act of kindness."

RELATED: 10 ways kids appear to be acting naughty but actually aren't.



You just never know what a child or parent is dealing with. Even in the absence of special needs, occasional meltdowns are a developmentally normal behavior. With gentle guidance and consistent parenting, kids do eventually move beyond that phase and gradually gain more control over their emotional regulation, but it takes time. And once the tantrum train has left the station, it's usually just a matter of waiting it out until they can actually be reasoned with.


Indeed. It's not like parents teach their kids to throw fits in public. I can't count how many times I heard people say, "If you don't give in to tantrums, they'll stop," when my kids were little. Yeah, no. I never gave my kids something they demanded during a tantrum, but that didn't stop them from occasionally melting down because they were overtired, overstimulated, or simply taxed beyond what their tiny human psyche could handle in the moment.

The whole thread is worth a read. It will restore your faith in humans and remind you of the importance of everyday heroes.


Parents need support, and going out of your way to be kind is far more helpful than going out of your way to judge. Let's hear it for kind old ladies trying to save the world, one little pep talk at a time.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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