Q&A with “What Now? A Parent’s Guide to Tantrums and Meltdowns” host Dr. Andrew Kahn
We’ve all seen kids crying or screaming in public. They’re likely having a tantrum or a meltdown. But knowing what to do next as a parent can be hard.
That’s why the Understood Podcast Network is launching its limited series What Now? A Parent’s Guide to Tantrums and Meltdowns.
Over eight episodes, host Dr. Andrew Kahn covers the ins and outs of tantrums and meltdowns. A licensed psychologist, Dr. Kahn focuses each episode on teaching a tangible strategy to help parents manage their child’s outbursts. He also ends each episode with ways to practice and use new skills during heated moments.
This how-to podcast can help all parents respond more effectively to challenging behavior. But What Now? may be especially helpful to parents of kids with learning and thinking differences like ADHD and dyslexia. Outbursts can indicate that kids are struggling to learn a new skill or complete a seemingly simple task.
Read on to learn more about Dr. Kahn and Understood’s first podcast inspired by cognitive behavior therapy. Get information about tantrums and meltdowns, what may cause them, and how to handle them with practical strategies. Listen to What Now? A Parent’s Guide to Tantrums and Meltdowns wherever you get your podcasts or watch it on YouTube to learn more.
In this first season of What Now? A Parent’s Guide to… you focus on tantrums and meltdowns. What’s the most common mistake parents make when their child is having an outburst?
Dr. Kahn: The most common mistake parents make, myself included, is approaching all of our kids’ emotional outbursts in the same way. In my 20 plus years of working as a psychologist, I’ve noticed many families have found it helpful to group their child’s outbursts into two big buckets. With meltdowns, kids are having an emotional explosion. They’re having such big feelings that they can’t think, plan, and, in some cases, understand what you’re saying to them.
But with tantrums, kids are still mostly in control. Their behavior has a purpose. They’re trying to achieve a specific outcome. And how you respond to a tantrum can have a big impact on your child. This season of What Now? gives parents different tools to help reduce and hopefully prevent these kinds of behaviors.
As a licensed psychologist, what is one thing you wish all parents knew about the big feelings that often lead to kids having outbursts?
Dr. Kahn: For many kids, outbursts are the only way they can express big feelings. This is especially true for kids with learning and thinking differences like ADHD and dyslexia. They struggle to regulate their emotions and to express their thoughts in words.
One of my main goals with this season of What Now? is to help parents understand the value of helping their kids — and themselves — learn to self-calm. Giving each other a little time and space can go a long way toward communicating effectively rather than ramping up each other’s reactions.
Each episode teaches one strategy and ends with ways to practice. Why is practice so important?
Dr. Kahn: When it comes to learning new strategies, there is only one way to make it a part of your daily life: practice. Over time, I’ve noticed that the most successful clients and their families were the ones who took the lessons from sessions and practiced them until they became part of their toolbox.
Parenting is hard, especially when your child’s outbursts make you angry or stressed. It’s harder to think clearly when your emotions are running high. That’s why I recommend practicing these new strategies when you’re calm. Practicing ahead of time can help you build the kind of “muscle memory” that makes it easier to use these new skills in heated moments.
Most of the episodes focus on helping parents interact with their child. But the last two episodes are about looking inward. Why is mindfulness so important for stressed-out parents?
Dr. Kahn: What we do as parents can have a big impact on our kids’ behavior. That’s why, early in the season, I have a whole episode on the importance of looking calm when your child is having an outburst.
But ultimately, I want to help parents not just look calm but actually feel calm. Mindfulness exercises are a great way to help manage your emotions. So, I end the season by teaching parents how to notice what triggers them and how to practice self-calming.
The last episode is a 6-minute guided meditation. I kept it short to help parents fit it into their daily schedules.
As the parent of a teenager and as someone who identifies as having ADHD, which episode resonated with you the most?
Dr. Kahn: That’s a tough question. One of my favorite things about this season is that each episode is between 5-8 minutes long. As someone with ADHD, I love that people can learn meaningful skills in just a few minutes.
If I had to pick one episode that resonated the most with me, it would be episode 7, where I talk about what triggers me as a parent. As a psychologist and dad, I know it’s very common to focus too much on kids’ behavior and to forget about our role in managing the situation. I offer tips to help with this, including how parents can avoid making things worse.
You end each episode with a key takeaway. What do you hope listeners take away from the season overall?
Dr. Kahn: My hope is that listeners take away how much emotion factors into kids’ behavior. Outbursts often happen when kids are struggling to express big feelings. And as parents, we may add fuel to the fire. How we respond can either make the outburst worse or help it end sooner.
For more information, visit https://www.understood.org/ podcasts/what-now-season-1. If you have comments, email us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!