Calm a Child in Distress


Calm a Child in Distress

“During our weekly staff meetings we encourage teachers and assistants to bring in any personal ideas or strategies on helping children transition from home to feel comfortable in school. The following are one teachers suggestion on calming down a nervous child.”    —Suzette

Hi Suzette,

I am writing to give some of my thoughts on the subject of trying to calm down a distressed child. First, being teachers I think we know that all children are different and deserve individual attention and care. No one method will work for all children. The one thing that is important for all children (crying or not) is a thoughtful send off from the grown up. One is to ackowledge the child’s feelings and let them know they are safe and that you love them, letting him/her know that you will be leaving but that you will also come back and then finally hugs and kisses and the departure.

Some children just need a hug and they are fine, others may need to be held for a few minutes. Still others may need more than that. I have had children where coming to them with the intention to soothe them only makes them cry more and louder. They need to be engaged in something and distracted from their own indulgence. They may not want to cry but they don’t know what else to do… so you softly and gently guide them. Sometimes giving them playdough or something else they can hold can help relieve some of the anxiety. Some start to cry after running around, so they may need water or something to eat. I have a child now that I learned unless given something to eat after playtrium has terrible crying episodes.

After trying other things, all (s)he needed/wanted was to sit alone and eat before (s)he joined in again. Always ask what the child needs or wants and if they aren’t able to say… empower them by giving them a voice. Give them a choice between two things and let them choose. Sometimes even this may not work… they may need to see that you have things under control… (i.e.: in a gentle and caring voice “We can go outside and count to 50 and then we are going back in the classroom… okay.” All these methods have worked with different children. You need to first know the child a little, they need to connect with you, with your heart. Most importantly, they need to feel safe with you.

I am sure that there are so many other ways I have soothed a child and so many more ways that I have yet to learn. We all have our methods but it is the child that will lead you to the right one for him/her.