Quick TipPrevent Meltdowns with a Trigger Journal

Girl with notepad showing OK sign

One of the most important parts of helping our kids manage their emotional intensity is to understand what triggers them in the first place.

When we get curious, we realize that there is some predictability to when, where and what sets off our kids. It’s usually not some random set of events—even if it feels like it at the time. 

Triggers can come from many areas:

  • physical (tired, hungry)
  • environmental (sensory)
  • emotional (stress, hormones)
  • mental (thoughts)

One great solution to figuring out your child’s triggers is to create a “Trigger Journal.”

How to Create a Trigger Journal

On a daily basis, begin to take note of any of your child’s emotional intensity and/or meltdowns.  What was happening just before?  What potential triggers are you aware of? Get curious about what she might have been thinking about that caused the reaction in the first place.

Once you have collected some data, use that information to help prevent future meltdowns.  For example:

  • If you know your child has a hard time shifting gears from one activity to another (likely an executive function deficit making transitions difficult), find ways to give warnings about what is coming next, and choices through the process.
  • If meltdowns tend to happen in the late afternoon before dinner (likely hungry, particularly if medications are wearing off), make sure your child has a protein-based snack.
  • If your child is just not a morning person, avoid “intense” conversations and keep instructions to a minimum.

Take a few moments each day to capture what you notice about triggers in your house. It couldn’t hurt to raise awareness of your own triggers, too.

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