The 'TUNNEL' analogy, and how it could change the way you view (and handle) your toddler&#39

As we continue on the topic of Children’s Mental Health, there’s one analogy that stands out as a way of potentially helping us understand and handle what is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of parenting... MELTDOWNS! .

The ‘tunnel analogy’ might be a familiar one to some, and it likens difficult feelings and emotions to tunnels, and the child to the train travelling through them. .

From this stance, there is no short-cut exit out of a meltdown situation. The ONLY way to get out the other side is to let it run its course. It sounds simple, but the approach is admittedly much easier said than done!

As parents, a natural instinct is to try and logic our children out of their feelings of sadness, anger or fear with explanations and reassurances, but the ‘tunnel’ analogy suggests that the ONLY response that is needed or effective in these situations is to provide company, love and support.


This, it is thought, succeeds in much more than just bringing the meltdown to a conclusion faster. It also builds resilience, by giving children the opportunity to develop ways of processing and dealing with their emotional struggles.

It’s worth noting, as well, that just as children should be encouraged to ride the course of whatever hard emotions they are feeling, at any given time, the same applies to grown ups. We adults are notoriously good at looking for shortcuts or distractions whenever we find ourselves in a ‘tunnel’, and in so doing unwittingly sabotage what is otherwise the fastest route back to ourselves.

Whether we’re dealing with a toddler meltdown, or ‘grown up’ problems of very different proportions, the tunnel analogy is therefore a potentially useful one to keep in mind, and to take heed of as appropriate.