When you help your child calm down, it takes a long time. It’s hard for them to express how they’re feeling. Often these emotions can feel overwhelming to them.
Things that seem little to us can be huge to them. The more you understand why your child is feeling this way, the easier it is to step in before they feel out of control.
When your child is very upset or angry, you want them to calm down as quickly as possible. But it’s important to look past the behaviour, to find out what it’s telling you. That helps you understand the triggers and plan for them. Often, just thinking about how we talk with our children can help.
How you can help your child calm down
There are lots of practical ways you can support your child when they feel very upset or angry.
1: Give them comfort
When your child is distressed, they feel out of control and they need your comfort. You could give a younger child a cuddle, stroke their hair, or offer them a favourite toy.
Older children might prefer you sitting close by without touching them. Every child is different, so experiment to find out what works best for yours.
2: It takes time
Calming down takes a long time. There’s no point telling them off for their behaviour or talking about the situation until they’re completely calm. Focus on helping them to get in control of their feelings and save the discussions for later.
3: Name the emotion
Children can struggle to understand how they’re feeling. Naming the emotion helps them express themselves. You can say, “I know you’re feeling frightened, and that’s okay. We all feel frightened sometimes.”
Phrases like, “it’s not that bad,” or, “there’s nothing to be upset about” don’t help. Minimising your child’s feelings can make them think these emotions are wrong, or something to be ashamed of.
4: Show them you’re calm
Your child’s behaviour may be extremely challenging, but try to show them you’re calm and in control, even if you don’t feel that way inside!
Talk in a soothing, quiet voice and don’t forget the importance of body language. Uncross your arms, take a few deep breaths and consciously relax your body.
Calming down strategies
You can teach your child different ways they can calm themselves down. This is called “self regulation”. Try them out when your child is relaxed, so they’re ready when they need them.
These are a few of our favourite ones:
- Count down from 20
- Relax Like a Cat relaxation story
- Have a snack or a drink
- Breathing exercises
- Read a story
- Massage with a calming child-friendly oil
- Self-soothe box
- Fidget toys and games
Over time, your child will learn how to manage these powerful emotions and recognise how they’re feeling before they go into meltdown.
What to do next
When your child’s feeling calm, talk to them about what happened. Once you understand the trigger behind the behaviour, you can plan what they can do when they face that problem again.
It’s important not to remove or suppress these big emotions. Reassure your child that feeling angry, upset, or frustrated isn’t bad. Tell them it’s okay to feel that way and remind them how much you love them.