If you're out in public and you see a child on the floor screaming and crying, or becoming aggressive towards their parents, what is your first thought? For some people, the first thought could be that this child is a ‘brat’ or that it must be the parents, but often this judgement is very far from the truth. This child could be autistic, and could be seriously overwhelmed and overstimulated to the point where they cannot cope anymore, this child could have PANDAS or PANS and their brain may be so inflamed that they involuntarily explode with rage, this kid could have ADHD, and may feel so antsy and irritable that they cannot contain it within themselves, this child could have a specific learning difficulty, and may feel so stressed from trying to do their work at school that they go into a meltdown. It often isn't what you may originally think it is.
It is understandable that people would think that it is behavioural when a child or young person is acting in this way, as that is what we may have been conditioned to think, but it is likely something more. ADHD is said to affect 1 in 10 people, dyslexia affects at least 1 in 10 people, dyscalculia affects 1 in 20 people, 1 in 100 are said to have Autism in the UK but statistics from other countries say that it is more common and 1 in 100 people are said to have Tourette Syndrome, therefore it isn’t that unlikely that you could come across someone with one of these conditions that could cause people to have meltdowns.
The reason I have decided to write this post is because sometimes parents are given nasty looks when their child is having a meltdown or people may make unkind comments about it, and this may be your natural reaction, but once you remind yourself that this little one may not be being ‘difficult’ on purpose, they may just be struggling, and that the parents are likely doing the best they can, then you can meet them with compassion rather than with disregard.
When parents face judgement, they may fear that they aren’t doing a good enough job parenting their child or they may fear that they could be reported for their parenting, and this can be a horrible feeling for people to endure when they care for their child so much and just want the best for them. It makes a world of difference when you support the family or just give them a gentle smile or a friendly gesture.
A child most likely doesn’t want to be dealing with this level of emotional turmoil, they do not want to be 'acting out' in public around those they love and those who they don't know. Whenever someone is having a meltdown in public they need to be validated, comforted and met with understanding as judging and making comments will not help the situation whatsoever. These children need to be made to feel understood, and parents need support as well. The dirty looks do so much harm, but an act of compassion could stay with someone for life.
I used to be 'that kid' who would hit, kick, bite, scream and lash out. I was that child who was unable to regulate their emotions and who would get strange looks in public. Was this bad behaviour? No. Was I ever badly behaved? Yes. These meltdowns and rage attacks however, where never down to being 'badly behaved'. They were due to me struggling with an inflamed brain and not knowing how to cope.
This could be your child one day, or maybe someone else in your family, imagine how you would feel if people looked down on you for having a child who is unable to control their actions due to a neurological condition, or how you would feel if they felt hatred towards your child when your child already feels so much pain. Please remember to be kind and if you see a child, teenager or adult screaming, crying, shouting or having some sort of meltdown, just love.
That child you see yelling may have a head filled with thoughts which try and torture them.
That child you see becoming aggressive feels deep anger surging through their body and feels unable to control their actions.
That child you see rolling around on the floor may not be able to cope with all of the bright lights and conflicting noises.
That child you see screaming is filled with anxiety and desperately wants to feel understood.
Please be kind, you don't know the whole situation.