Calming Unsettled Children

written by angela bush
Calming an upset or unsettled child can be stressful. We can often find ourselves becoming tense. Our breathing speeds up, our muscles tense, and we are desperately trying to find ways to soothe this child. We might begin to look for distractions for them. We may pat pat pat their bottom or rock them, and often these movements become more and more vigorous.

It is in moments like these that we need to remember that children will feel our tension. Infants and toddlers are experts at reading our body language, and will feel our heart beating. They can sense our distress, which in turn increases theirs.

We do not need to distract this child from their feelings. Magda Gerber taught us that it is ok for children to express their feelings. If we distract them from these we are telling the child that it is not ok to feel this way. Remember that all feelings will pass.

  • Take a deeeeeeep breath. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply.
  • Consciously relax all the muscles in your body. Especially your face.
  • Stop vigorously rocking, cajoling or distracting this child.
  • Offer to hold the child if that is what they want. If not, remain calmly close by with open hands so that they know you are there for them if they change their mind.
  • Hum, sing quietly or talk to the child acknowledging their feelings "I know you are feeling sad/worried. I am here for you."
  • If the child wants to be held, hold them close to your heart so that they can feel your calmness. Gently sway.
  • Take the child outside into the fresh air to be in nature if you can. Mother nature knows how to calm all of us.
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