How to Help a Crying Child with 2 Simple Questions

The one thing I love most about children is that they experience things intensely. They love like no other, they laugh with their whole belly, they squeal with a heightened sense of excitement and they experience such joy in the tiniest of moments.

This also true with other emotions and triggers like anger, sadness, anxiety, and over stimulation. These feelings are so intense that children can deteriorate quickly into throwing tantrums and having meltdowns at what seems like the drop of a hat. They then head into a downward spiral and just can’t seem to stop themselves from crying.

As a mum of 3 children, and a special-ed trained teacher I have seen my fair share of meltdowns!!! We have all been there with a child that is so devastated that they have reached the point of no return.

When a child is extremely worked up and can’t stop crying, I have found these two simple questions to work best to ask them:

1. Do you need to let it all out?
2. Do you need me to help you calm down?

I think the reason it works so well is that it gives them the validation that crying is ok. They then have a choice and are empowered to come up with a solution. Usually, when I ask these questions, their intensity level decreases a small amount instantly because they feel heard, loved and understood.

If the child chooses option 1 – that’s great, because sometimes we all need a good cry!

Crying is a highly effective way for all humans, regardless of age to release their pent-up frustration and emotions.

Crying is perfectly ok.

You can just sit with them or ask if they want a hug. 

When someone is upset in our family, we have something called a 2 minute hug.  This is where we just hug for two minutes without talking.  I start the hug off by saying “Let my heart talk to your heart” and then we just hug with no talking at all. Sensing my calmness, my child will just sink into my body and listen to me breathe.  At about the 1 minute mark they usually start to mimic my breathing which helps to slow down their own heart rate and they start to calm down. By the end of the 2 minutes, they usually have calmed down completely. And if they haven’t calmed down, I just adjust the question to “Do you need to cry some more or do you need me to help you find another way to help calm you down

If the child chooses option 2, you can offer an array of self-regulation strategies to help them calm down:

  • Listening to music
  • Breathing exercises
  • Having a bath
  • Practicing meditation or yoga
  • Visiting a calming place
  • Having some alone time
  • Drawing or painting
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Playing sport or exercising

Once you do this a lot with children, they begin to learn what self-regulation strategies work best for them and then they will begin to tell you themselves what they need without you having to ask the question!

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