Melting into a Meltdown

It is beginning to warm up outdoors and the ice and snow of winter is melting away. As much as I love the springtime, this period of thawing transforms the once beautiful, contained shapes (hanging icicles and peaked drifts) to messy, undefined mud and slop. And that I do NOT like.

As children we learned (both through teaching and observation) that objects and matter melt when the temperature heats up. As adults we can say that emotional melting has some definite similarities, often taking place when situations ‘heat up’, and sometimes turning our lives into a sloppy mess!

Here are a few definitions of the emotional meltdown (that, unfortunately, doesn’t limit itself to the springtime).

*A rapid or disastrous decline or collapse of emotions, feelings, or passions.angrychild2

*A breakdown of self-control.

*When a person freaks out, cracks, or loses control of themselves.

At every stage of development, it is important to know how to cope with emotional meltdowns – both your own meltdowns and those of others. A few questions (posed by Megan Rice of have been helpful in learning to manage those out-of-control feelings that surface from time to time.

Question 1: What are you feeling?  It’s good to start with identifying the emotion. Believe it or not, this can be the most difficult task. Keep a list handy if necessary. (Google ‘images for list of emotions’ for easy reference charts.) And the old stand-by “upset” is not valid for every incident, friends! I’ve found that having a visual chart (naming and picturing facial expressions) is really helpful for younger children. Are you feeling frustrated? disappointed? sad? misunderstood? afraid? (You may ask them to “point to the face that shows how you feel.”)

Question 2: What caused you to feel this way?  Identify the facts that led up to the feeling/meltdown. Be careful not to let this becomeangrychild an opportunity for blame or excuses. (He made me so mad…!) For example, a child may be crying and upset because “The boys get to stay overnight at Grandma’s and I don’t.” OR I may be upset that the meeting I traveled to was cancelled without my knowledge.

Question 3: What is the truth about this situation?  A little objectivity can really help reign in overboard reactions. For my above example, I might share with my child “Yes, that’s true. But last month you had a turn for a sleepover at Grandma’s, didn’t you?” OR I might tell myself “maybe they tried to contact me and couldn’t get through, or maybe a last minute emergency caused the cancellation. In any case, I’m sure they didn’t let me drive all the way here unnecessarily just to be mean to me and waste my time!”

Question 4: What is a good response to this situation? Finally we address the degree of the reaction. To my child, “It’s okay to be disappointed, but crying for 45 minutes because you don’t get to go tonight is probably too much. Let’s take a little time to be sad, and then plan something fun to do at home.” OR to myself, “Well, now I have some free time that I wasn’t planning on. What would I really like to do with the extra hour or two?”

Remember that emotional responding is not wrong. It is normal and healthy. Being created with a wide range of emotions is a wonderful thing. To be able to laugh and cry and fight injustice and celebrate success is a gift. Feeling out of control in the emotional arena, though, is not.

Work to recognize and not minimize the significant events: the pain of betrayal, compassion for the hurting, loss of a loved one, etc. And work to recognize and appropriately lessen the focus on the minor events in life that don’t need to be over-emphasized: the dollar-tree toy that broke, no dessert tonight, etc.  It is not okay to ‘bottle up’ our true feelings! But neither is it okay to ‘dump them’ on everyone else. And unless we are taught proper ways of working through identifying and dealing with our emotions, we will often not handle them in a healthy way.

A wise woman starts with herself, in this area of life, as in so many others. Have you ever really listened to the emergency plan from the friendly airline-attendant? She reminds all travelers to ‘secure your own oxygen mask first, begin to breathe normally, and then tend to your children or significant others.’ Not only does this 3-step process make air travel a happier and safer experience, it also makes LIFE TRAVEL much more successful!

Use this same format in emotional meltdown management. Practice answering the four questions yourself {1. What are you feeling?  2: What caused you to feel this way? 3: What is the truth about this situation?  And 4: What is a good response to this situation?} and then teach it to others.

Secure your own emotional management system first. Breathe normally. And then tend to your children or significant others.


In need of specific help just for Mom? is looking at Moms and anger

… and how to deal with it appropriately.

You’ll find several interesting articles there on the age-old problems

Mommies have faced for millennium. You are not alone!


Nurturing a Love of Nature

Last week, I took an energy-bound crew of children to our local nature center. It was a pleasant 34 degrees and the sun was gorgeous as we loaded up the van and headed out. As much as I welcome the opportunity to wander through the woods, to simply observe the wonders of nature, this adventure did have a different motive… to wear out the troop (my children and a niece and nephew) that had been held captive indoors, in school.

The excitement level was high by the time we arrived. Within seconds, the unbuckling and scrambling began. Out the doors and towards the Interpretive Center the kids ran. Once inside, an awed hush fell over the crew.

2013-03-07 11.03.42Along each wall of the main room, on tables and in glass cases, hanging from the rafters above and in several smaller side rooms were enough stuffed creatures, investigative tools, and tidbits of information to keep a person searching for long while.

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A friendly volunteer drifted among us answering questions from the eager learners and adding his own stories and experiences.

We finally left the building and headed to the trails. At first the kids ran and laughed along the path, but then they slowed to a walk and began to look. Up through the naked limbs silhouetting the clear blue sky. Down along the path and under low-hanging pine branches where animal tracks could be seen. The walking paths were wonderfully remote, secluded, quiet and serene.

2013-03-07 11.41.24As we ventured between two rows of straight, tall pine trees, one of the hikers mentioned that he felt as if we were marching between two rows of soldiers, saluting us. We looked up as we walked and let our imaginations drift. Later, another child found an owl pellet near the trunk of a tree that we stopped to observe and connect to the story Daddy had recently read, Poppy by Avi, about an owl and mouse family. We traveled down to the river and found the foundation of an old trapper’s home. We discovered a tepee that others had built.

2013-03-07 12.08.37

The time outdoors was refreshment as much for our mental wellbeing as it was for our physical health. Remember my ultimate goal? To wear out the troops? We were all physically exhausted when we finished our hike, but we were also mentally stimulated. And emotionally at rest. It is amazing how relaxed and at peace you feel when you amble through God’s creation! Too many of us know little of the natural world because we never take time to observe it.

“There is no kind of knowledge to be had in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves, of the world they live in,” said Charlotte Mason, the 19th-century British educator. “Let them at once get into touch with nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We are all meant to be naturalists2013-03-07 11.09.11  each to his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world to full of marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.”

No matter where you live, in the suburbs, the country or the city, there are opportunities all around for getting in touch with nature. . They say that “nature is not secretive, but she may not be showy either.” So be on alert. Be observant. If you can, just walk through the countryside or along the sea shore. If it’s possible, stroll through the city parks. Spend a day at the museum, the planetarium, the zoo. Plant a garden – even a windowsill garden. Get a few outdoor animals or some small pets to have in the apartment. Study trees and how they change throughout the year. You’ll find that nature yields treasure after treasure. We just need to take the time to observe. Nurture a love of nature in your children. It will last a lifetime.


“If I had influence with the good fairy…

I should ask her that her gift to each child in the world

be a sense of wonder so indestructible

that it would last throughout life.”

Rachel Carson

The Stranger

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then stranger3

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger… well, he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home – not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked … And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?…. We just call him ‘TV.’tv stranger

He has a wife now….we call her ‘Computer.’

Their first child is ‘Cell Phone’. The second child, ‘I Pod. ‘

And just last year was born a grandchild: I Pad.

And their influence dominates our lives.  (by: Ray Comfort of Living Waters Ministries)

Guess what? We have a TV in our home. And a computer. AND a cell phone. My hope in sharing this story is not to encourage you to rid your homes of technology. Technology is amazing. The power to communicate, to entertain, to learn and to share… it is absolutely incredible. No- don’t throw it out. BUT… stop for a minute and evaluate. How are we stewarding what we have in the form of technology? Are we being responsible with it? Or are we letting it dominate our lives?

 Back in November of 2012, I blogged on Black Friday and Black Holes. I shared some information from Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd at She challenges us to set up digital boundaries and to even (gasp!) take a digital fast. Too often, if we evaluate honestly, we will see that ‘the digital invasion has stolen from our real life and relationships’. So make a change.  Be where your butt is!

 “Living intentionally in this digital world means

you will need to AWAKEN to your relationship with technology,

ASSESS what technology has stolen from you,

and then RECLAIM your real life and real relationships.”

Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejdtv stranger2

Technology is not bad; it’s the use of it that we need to discipline.