7 Thoughtful Ways Parents can Help Kids Calm Down

Mother giving a hug and comforting sad child

Sometimes it can be really hard to get a child to calm down and tell you why they are upset. They are crying or screaming in distress and having a hard time. Sometimes because they are frustrated, or got hurt, or feel upset, or sad. They are little after all and are learning how to deal with all the different feelings that come with being human.

They watch us very closely to see how we react to them and how we react to other things in our life. They are learning by example how to deal with their emotions.

So, we need to make sure we are reacting appropriately to situations so we can help teach our children.

We need to lead by example of how to react in upsetting confrontations and moments.

Even when you are feeling frustrated and your children aren’t listening at all and you are having a bad day in general. You’re getting more and more upset, so show your kids how to manage your emotions healthily, which is not by yelling at them or letting them get away with stuff because you are upset. 

They learn more from what you do and your example than the words you are saying and will start to react in similar ways as they get older.

When they are upset, they cannot listen to what you are saying or internalize it. They have big emotions inside of them that they are dealing with. Being a good example of how to act is way better. Way better than telling and yelling things at them.

When your kids are upset, give them time to calm down and help them to calm down if needed. That might look different at different ages.

Some kids need big hugs, some need space and time to calm down, and some need you to be in eyesight of you, with you waiting patiently and lovingly to help them while they calm down.

I find that hugging my kids seems to help them, no matter the age so far. It makes them feel loved and cared for. It helps them understand that no matter what they are feeling, I am there for them. If they don’t want a hug, I am happy to sit next to them and wait for them to get all their big feelings out, no matter how long it takes them. And then give them a hug afterward.

I also like to talk to them about it right after, when they have calmed down, if they are willing to talk about it. I like to ask questions like “What made you upset? How did that make you feel? Why did you feel like that? Is there anything I can do to help you next time? How can you help yourself not get so mad next time?”

Then listen, really listen to their responses and how they are feeling and what they are saying. Just be there for them. Help them figure out what emotions they are feeling and how to deal with it next time.

How can parents help kids calm down in the moment?

1. Be Patient:

Don’t try to rush them or get annoyed that your kid is still upset.  Don’t say “Stop crying now!” What? Does that help anyone feel better? I don’t think so. Just be patient.

2. Stay calm:

You getting upset will make everyone else more upset, especially the child you are trying to help calm down. If you get upset, you might even eventually end up yelling, which really does not help anyone and can make things worse. However, remaining calm can help your child to calm down faster. It also sets a really great example of how to act when things are difficult. So do your best to remain calm.

3. Let them know you are there for them when they are ready.

When your child is wailing and crying and won’t calm down, let them know you love them and are there for them when they are ready to calm down and talk. Then you can go do other things, like finish washing dishes or work on a project or whatever you need to do until they are ready to talk. Then spend quality time with them really listening about their problem, giving hugs, and being supportive.

4. Offer a hug, pick them up, hold their hands, or snuggle with them on the couch.

Babies and toddlers and even preschoolers tend to still be picked up, held, hugged and snuggled a lot of the time, though not always. So pay attention and see if they want to be picked up or not or if they want to show you something instead. For older kids, offer a hug, hold their hands, or ask if they would like to snuggle on the couch. It is okay if they don’t want to do any of those things. They will still feel loved and like you care, just by you offering and showing that you care for them.

5. Take a few deep breaths and have them breathe with you.

This really helps with my preschool-aged child and even with my 6-year-old. I tell them to take a deep breath and then I model it for them. I have them breathe with me for a few minutes until I can tell they are feeling calm.

6. Validate their feelings.

It is very important to validate feelings and let them know it is okay to feel the way they do. What is not okay is taking out your anger or other emotions on others by hitting or breaking toys or screaming at them. Let them know you understand they feel upset and talk about what they can do next time to help them navigate that situation

7. Use Imagination

My Preschooler really loves this trick for when she is feeling upset or frustrated. We tell her “Look, I picked some flowers. Do you want one? What color is it?” Then she will pretend to take a flower and choose a color like pink. Then we say “What does your pink flower smell like?” Then she will say something like “Bubblegum” Or whatever comes to her mind. Then we will do it again and she will normally choose different color and smell each time. It is a very fun way to get her to calm down and think about something else until she feels better.

I really love to use those 7 tips to help calm my kids!

Now, this does not mean I let my kids get away with anything while they are upset. They cannot yell at people and call them names, they cannot get physical and hit or push someone, or throw items and be destructive. If they do any of those things, I tell them that I cannot let them act like that, it is not okay to hurt others and be mean and it is not okay to be destructive. Even if you are really mad.

Then if they continue acting out, there are a few options that could work depending on the child and what is going on. Sometimes, I hold out my arms and ask if they would like a hug. This works remarkably well to help kids calm down. Them throwing a temper tantrum is a cry for help, a cry to help them deal with everything that is going on. Or I can ask them to breathe with me or do other calming down techniques. Also, depending on the situation like if they don’t want a hug or do any of the other things to help them calm down, I can let them know I’m here when they are ready or if they need me and give them time to calm down, knowing I am still there and care.

It can be tough in the moment to figure out why your child is so upset. Be patient, calm, and kind. Show them you love and care for them. Give them calming down techniques and even talk to them afterward about things they can try to do to calm down.

Learning healthy ways to deal with and express their emotions will help them as they grow up, through adulthood, and for the rest of their lives.

What are other ways you help your child to calm down? Let me know in the comments!

Mother giving a hug and comforting sad child
Thoughtful Ways Parents can help kids calm down

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