After a Violent Meltdown - Avoiding Shame

Written by Yvonne Newbold

Shame is one of the most painful emotions to experience, it eats away at our sense of self, our self-esteem and self-confidence, and it makes us feel hopeless, useless, worthless and miserable. It feeds our critical self-talk voice in our heads with an huge overdose of negativity, and it closes down joy and optimism.

Never underestimate how much shame affects our children when a violent episode has happened. Our children don’t have the life experience or understanding to try and put shame into any context, so they carry it all and blame and hate themselves so harshly. There is no punishment or sanction or consequence that feels worse than a child who shrouds themselves in shame. They are beating themselves up inside unforgivingly and they are having a really tough time.

That’s why our children often can’t apologise afterwards and they don’t want to talk about it or be reminded of what happened and what they did. That’s why they may try to laugh about it or to brush is off, or to blame others for why it happened by saying things like – “well you started it”. Shame is a huge emotion, if it overwhelms adults, so just think how it must feel when you’re only a child?

We are the adults, and it’s our job to help our children through their negative feelings. So even though it was the parent who was hurt, even though it was your house that got trashed, even though it was you have had some very hurtful insults thrown at you, it also has to be you who makes things alright again.

Our children don’t want to be like this, and if we are feeling awful, they are feeling worse. We have to find a way to help our child cope with this sense of shame, and to be able to put it into perspective to make it more manageable. If we don’t help them with their shame, this is where self-hatred starts, this could well be one of the places that suicidal thoughts are born. That means that, right in the aftermath of a very difficult meltdown it’s not the time to add in more guilt, or try to show the child that hitting people is wrong. They know that already and they hate themselves for losing control.

Afterwards is the time to let them know that they are loved unconditionally and that together you will find a way to make things better. Because they want that even more than you do.

If you need help with your child’s violent behaviour due to an additional need, there’s help available. See below for links to other resources, join our closed FB support group for parents or come to one of our Workshops. You aren’t alone and things can and do get better for families just like yours.