My loved one with PWS is having a behavior outburst, tantrum or meltdown. What can I do?
Being prepared and working with the individual with PWS to understand a triggering situation while helping them manage their anxiety can make difficult situation much easier to handle.
- Use a calm tone of voice. Yelling or showing negative emotion will likely increase your loved one’s anxiety and escalate an outburst.
- Remain empathetic. Shame, judgment, and guilt will only add to negative feelings. Likewise, threats and bribery won’t work and instead just exasperate the situation. Remain calm and offer reassurance as your loved one begins to decompress.
- Be supportive while trying to understand where the stress is coming from.
- Your loved one with PWS iknows he or she is not in control during an outburst. He or she will be counting on you to be their “rock” who can help them feel safe.
- Talking too much can cause additional confusion and anxiety for your loved one. If a situation seems to be escalating, try being a silent presence.
- In addition to being silent, you can try reducing external stimulation by going to a calm quiet place.
- Remind your loved one of their coping skills and help them use those skills. For example, if your loved one has been taught to use controlled breathing to relax, remind him or her to take deep breaths (and breathe along with them).
- Calmly wait for your loved one to return to baseline. Rushing this process will only make the situation worse.
- Whatever you do, don’t give in to the outburst or tantrum. Doing so only reinforces the behavior and can make the next tantrum even worse. Instead, reinforce the use of positive coping skills by acknowledging positive behavior. For example, try saying something like, “You did a nice job using your breathing to calm down. I am very proud of you for using your coping skills.”