How to Calm a Child Down

How to Calm a Child Down

Occasionally, one of my boys will become so upset about something that he’s unable to tell me what’s going on. His sobbing or raging anger makes it impossible for him to talk. Maybe he’s had a fight with his brother or is distressed about something that happened at school. Whatever it is, he needs help to calm down enough to be able to tell me what’s happening and to receive to my support & guidance.

None of us – adult or child – like to be told to “calm down”. It invalidates our feelings and it’s not as though we can instantly calm ourselves just because someone has told us to. There are many simple ways to help our children settle their emotions without invalidating them but one of the most effective I’ve found is to give my son a glass of water to drink.

Super simple and non-confrontational, it gives his body & his brain a moment to pause and time for the edge to naturally come off his emotion. It’s nothing to do with the water itself, although water is hydrating and refreshing. It’s just that drinking it gives him something easy to do and creates space around his upset so that he’s calm enough to be able to talk through whatever it is that is upsetting him.

I also find a drink of water useful when my boys are over-excited or getting carried away. There are even times when I use this little trick to calm down myself, such as when I feel at risk of flying off the handle because my boys’ behaviour is testing me or their needs are overwhelming me. A glass of water allows me to respond respectfully and intentionally instead.

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