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Family matters: Lessons from a meltdown

Who would have thought that something so powerful lurked on the kitchen shelf? Mother-of-two Louisa Wilkins has a sharp awakening to the important things in life.

Family matters: Lessons from a meltdown
Image Credit: Camera Press
Children find security in possessions and routines

Who didn't love Honey I Shrunk the Kids? All that flying around on bumblebees, swimming in bowls of cereal, house-sized custard cream biscuits... Having the viewpoint of a carpet mite made the world look strange and sometimes scary. It highlighted the fact that size distorts perception; issues that seemed insurmountable to the shrunken children were of no consequence to the normal-sized adults.

While I'm sure the film didn't set out to symbolise the emotional hurdles of childhood, it does the job pretty well. Something that seems like a catastrophic disaster to a young child may not even register on an adult's stress radar - as I recently found out, when my five-year-old had a seemingly unprovoked meltdown at school drop-off. I spent days pondering over the trigger - she wasn't tired, hungry, or ill, so it must have been something emotional, and I couldn't work it out.

The answer dawned on me during a conversation with NLP life coach, Shana Kad, who is coaching us on our Aquarius Life Challenge. Shana said how, as adults, we know that we've locked the front door and have enough money for groceries, so we feel secure. But children, on the other hand, will find security in possessions and routines.

That's when it hit me that my daughter has corn flakes every morning for breakfast and that on Meltdown Morning, we had run out. I offered her 15 other breakfast options, but she said "No" and stomped off, eventually re-surfacing and moodily requesting banana and peanut butter. I recounted the story to Shana, saying that the lack of corn flakes must have caused the meltdown. She agreed. "It's obviously a part of her daily routine that's important to her, and she wanted to show you that."

Although I was relieved to have worked out the conundrum, it worried me that I might be unaware of other anchoring fixtures in my daughter's daily life.

I asked Shana how, as parents, we can recognise what our child deems important. She said, "If your child gets clingy when you leave him, instead of telling him to act his age, or that the other children are fine, understand that he is trying to tell you something. Given a choice, he would rather take the path of least pain. So, his resistance is saying that he needs you to give him the security that only you can give him."

It makes sense - I always thought that tantrums didn't look like much fun, or like a very efficient use of energy. Shana explained that these extreme reactions are often just a cry out for security. She says, "Convey that you will be there, no matter what, without distraction, until they feel comfortable and secure. Ask yourself what could be contributing to this insecurity. Has there been tension, or a change, at home? Does he just need that extra mile from you on this occasion? If you provide security, you'll find that this phase doesn't last long."

The next day at Choithrams, with Shana's words fresh in my mind, I said to my daughter, "Do you want to grab a big box of corn flakes? Also, let's get a few of those small boxes for emergencies so that we don't run out again." Her eyes sparkled with such happiness you'd think I'd just told her Cinderella was coming for tea. A couple of aisles later, she said to me, "Mummy, why did you say that about the corn flakes?" I said, "Well, I saw that you were upset the other day and I thought it might have been because we'd run out of corn flakes... I didn't want that to happen to you again." She paused before saying, "Oh, Mummy. That makes me so happy I think I'm going to cry." Which, frankly, nearly made me cry. So, we hugged it out in front of the washing detergents and carried on with the shop.

A couple of days later, I asked her if there was anything else that she would be upset without. She said, "Yes. Shoes. Otherwise I'll burn my feet." Right. No grand insight into her world there, then. It seems she's not aware of her emotional anchors - or, at least, not consciously aware. But that's OK, because at least now I know that, when my little girl seems to be kicking up a fuss about something silly, it's her way of showing me that it doesn't seem silly to her. Instead of being frustrated by it, I now realise that those instances are my chance to see life through her eyes and find out, in her view, which molehills really do seem as big as mountains.

For details on Shana's coaching and workshops, visit

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