How to Calm Down a Child When They’re Having a Meltdown

Depending on when you’re reading this article, chances are good that you’re spending a whole lot more time than usual with your child.

It’s a scary and confusing time for adults and children alike, and it’s easy for tempers to flare, and children to become upset or confused at the drop of a hat. So I figured that now was a great time to solicit advice on how to calm down a child when they’re scared, frustrated, or flat out having a meltdown.

How to Calm Down a Child When They’re Upset

Theresa Bertuzzi, Co-Founder of Tiny Hoppers

Sometimes your child is having a meltdown, and you’re at a loss of what to do. As parents are spending more time at home with their children, it is crucial to find useful techniques that help calm them down.

We often underestimate the power of taking big deep breaths. Sit your child down and guide them through deep breathing exercises. Repeat to them, “deep breath in (hold), deep breath out (exhale),” they will replicate this behaviour. This way, your child can take a few minutes to gather their thoughts and feelings to express them in a non-hurtful way.

Designate a place where they can go to sit down and calm down. This place is not meant to be treated like a “time out” space, as children will associate this as a negative thing. Creating a peaceful spot for your child to de-stress is a fantastic way for them to take a moment and reflect.

Direct your child’s attention to something else. If you’re a kid that has been cooped up inside for hours and is having a meltdown, go outside and get your body moving. The brain will clear itself of negative emotions and flood with endorphins.

It is essential to teach your child to think before speaking (especially if they’re angry). This is a compelling skill to start developing as a child! Taking a pause and just counting in your head, whether it be to 10 or 100, will prevent blurring out regretful things.

As there are many music platforms available to us, it is vital to take advantage of them. Create a playlist with happy and calming music. When your child is practicing their deep breathing or in their space, play some music. It is a powerful and calming tool that is always handy to have. It might also be as simple as hugging your child. Children often have meltdowns because they are looking for attention from their loved ones. Squeeze them tight and tell them that everything will be okay.

Finding a technique (or multiple) that will work for your child will require some trial and error. By continuing to practice together, you will surely find what works best for your child! 

Kate Landry, A Hundred Affections

Hi, I’m a mom of 5-year-old twin boys. Things can escalate pretty quickly when there are two children who are the same age, the same stage of development. One little trick that has really helped bring down the emotional intensity when one (or both) of the boys are screaming is asking them to count to 10. Then, I ask them to count backward from 10. I may do this one or 2 more times. Then, I’ll sort of play Simon Says with them: “Touch your head. Touch your ears. Rub your belly,” etc. After that, I’ll start asking them about the things around them: “What color is your shirt?” “What color is the couch?” “What shape is the picture frame?”

All of those sorts of things get them out of their emotions and into concrete, cognitive activity. It grounds them. Once they are calm, then we can talk about why they are upset and what we need to do to solve the problem. This technique helps bring down their emotions, and it helps me stay calm. We do this often at our house, and it’s helping them know the routine when their emotions are getting the better of them.

Jenni, Roots of Truth

Even though I’m a mom of 3 little ones, I still forget that most of the time, simple is best when it comes to kids. It usually doesn’t take complicated techniques to get through to them.

Forgetting The Words

If my child is upset, has a small injury or is out of control I will start singing a song but forget the words. For instance- “ABCDEF- oh, no! Mommy forgot the words. Can you help me remember the rest?”

That’s usually enough for a shocked look and some giggles and help singing the rest of the song.

Talking Slowly And Whispering

Another trick I use for out of control kids is to talk slowly and whisper. The key is to not stop- just keep trying. Usually they will start to whisper too, even if they don’t know why. Once they’ve calmed down, then talk to them about whatever was happening.

Explain Your Own Feelings

This may not work for a 2 year old but I still explain things to my 2 year old even if she doesn’t quite get it. Sometimes when kids are out of control, they are picking up on YOUR energy. There are times where I sit down with my kids and just say “Guys, I’m tired too. I’m grumpy too. Let’s eat something and treat each other better.” And that usually works wonders

Samantha Radford, Evidence-based Mommy

My name is Samantha Radford, and I’m a mom of 4 kids under 7, so I have lots of experience calming children down 🙂

In addition, I own Evidence-based Mommy, where I empower parents to thrive while raising their kids.

If your child is inconsolable about something that you really can’t change, redirection to your physical environment can really help. For my toddler, I might get his attention and then say, “Oooh, I see a tree! Do you see a tree?” (For young children, choose an object that’s really easy to find). After a few rounds of looking for things in their environment, your little one may forget what he was so mad about.

For older children (and even yourself!) you can do the same thing with a slightly different technique. Ask your child to tell you five things they see. Then, have them close their eyes and tell you five things they hear, five things they feel (such as their jacket against their skin, a breeze, etc). Grounding yourself in the present like this can really help with calming down.

Another way to help your child get grounded is with “bunny breaths:” Three quick sniffs into the nose, and then one long, slow outbreath through the mouth. Breathe in this pattern with your child for several breaths until they calm down.

Remember, it’s okay for your child to get upset sometimes! And given all the sudden changes that have happened recently, it’s totally reasonable for your child to have some feelings to work through. Your job isn’t to “fix” your child or make them stop crying, it’s to be with them through storms of emotions and to help them learn emotional self-regulation. Considering how much we as adults can struggle with this task still, it’s okay that your kids need practice.

Thomas Bradbury, Technical Director at GetSongkey

As we spend more time with the kids during the pandemic, we are often faced with difficult challenges. One of these would be kids that refuse to calm down. 

There are a lot of feelings that children can go through – and many of these can make them upset or sometimes even hyper. Knowing how to deal with this is important. 

One of the best strategies I use is to help my kid work through the feelings he has – this way, I am not simply covering up his feelings, but rather ensuring he learns from a young age to deal with difficult emotions. I will talk to my child – have a conversation with them. Find out exactly what is bothering them and then consider what solutions can help. 

Bottom Line: Helping your child work through difficult emotions is a good strategy to calm them down.

Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby

Calm down your toddler?  Magic Breathing

This skill is as simple as breathing, but before you teach your bouncy little tyke, it’s important for you to learn it.

First, You Practice: Relax your face. When the house is quiet, turn off the phone and take 2-3 minutes for yourself. Sit in a comfy chair, uncross your legs, put your hands in your lap, drop your shoulders, and––most important––let the tiny muscles around your mouth and eyes get very soft and relaxed.

  • Take a few slow breaths. Slowly inhale through your nose (as you silently count to 5) then slowly exhale through your nose (for another silent 5 counts). Make a little whooshy sound as the air flows in and out, and never hold your breath.
  • As you breath in, let one hand slowly rise and as you breathe out, let it slowly drop.

Practice where your child can watch. He may get curious and want to imitate you.

When he comes to watch you:

  • Say, “Breathe with Mommy.” Start by leading him through a couple of fast breaths (2 counts in, 2 counts out), using your whooshy sound and hand motion to guide him. Don’t get frustrated if he can’t do it right away. It may take a dozen tries for him to get the hang of it.
  • Reward any breathing with encouragement: “Good breathing!” “Good following my hand.” Give a hand check and immediately follow it up with a little play. (Later in the day, gossip about his good breathing to your spouse, his teddy bear or a birdie outside.)
  • Gradually, lead your child through more and slower breaths (aim for at least 5 breaths at a sitting). Once he gets good at magic breathing, practice it in different places and at different times of the day.

Nancy Baker, Managing Editor of ChildMode

I’m a mother of two beautiful boys and let me tell you that it was a pain dealing with them in the first 4 years of their life. Thankfully I’ve learned some interesting tricks to calm them down and soothe my troublesome kids.

Tell them there’s a monster nearby

This advice might seem unparentlike but it works. I usually scream to get my child’s attention and then I’ll point outside the window looking scared. Kids being the imaginative creatures that they are will imagine all sorts of horrible things that they’ll stop what they’re doing and cling to you to protect them from the big bad monster.

Of course, this advice is also situational as well so use it sparingly or at times when it’s most effective. A good environment to do this trick is at night where it’s naturally scary for your kids. 

Lastly, don’t take it too far because this trick could backfire. I had an occasion where I scared my kid and they panicked and cried thinking what the monster could do. 

Lead by example

As a parent, you are the role models for your children. One of the biggest reasons that kids refuse to calm down when you tell them to is because they probably got it from you. If you are angry a lot or generally emotional in your reaction, then your children will tend to follow your behavior.

Now, when you tell your kids to calm down while looking angry and flustered, they’ll think that you’re hypocrites and will rebel against you. I’m usually a soft-spoken person which is why it’s easier for me to calm down my kids by signaling them the “quiet” sign or a simple “shhh”.

Tell them a joke

When my kids are upset or angry, I usually tell them a joke to make them laugh or roll their eyes from the lameness of my joke. You don’t have to be a comedian to make your kids laugh, sometimes I purposefully make bad jokes to distract my kids from the things that made them angry or upset in the first place. It’s a good way to distract your kids and make them forget about their problems. You’ll look like a lame or uncool parent to your kid but at least you won’t have to make a scene in public.

Lynell Ross, Managing Editor of Zivadream

From my experience as a parent following is the most useful trick I have learned to help my children calm down: 

Speak quietly, be respectful and redirect their attention When my boys were totally out of control, wound up, jumping, twirling, wrestling or even crying and not listening to me, the most effective tool I found was to look them right in the eye, hold their hand and calmly talk to them, and refocus their attention to something else.. I would use anything I could think of, to redirect their mind to something tangible. 

You can say, “could you help me with this? ” I really need help planting these flowers, or baking this cake, or lifting this heavy box.” Or, “Mom is on the phone, or Dad isn’t feeling well, so we need to be quiet right now.” Then after we get our work done, we can go to the park, play basketball or get a snack.”

When I would involve them in something useful or meaningful, it helped them feel important, and gave them a task to focus on. This works on very small children up to teenagers. I have found that many times children act up because they are trying to get our attention, or out of boredom, and when we show interest in them, it doesn’t matter what the task is, when you are looking at them and communicating quietly with them, they will slowly calm down and meet your energy level. 

In our family, I tried to create an atmosphere of teamwork and respect. I quickly learned that yelling at kids to calm down never works. Speaking softly, and getting in front of them helps them to see you and come back to reality. And telling them how you really feel, helps them to become aware of their behavior. Let them know why it’s important for them to calm down or be quiet, especially if someone in the house is working, or sleeping or sick. 

Treating your children with respect is the best way to help them calm down and have a sense of importance. The way you treat them teaches them how to treat you.  

Eddie Johnson, Anabolic Bodies

I hope you’re staying safe during these troubled times. I’m Eddie Johnson, the proud parent of two intelligent little boys – the eldest of whom is an epic, world-class tantrum-thrower. Naturally, with the added stress of quarantine, both kids have been acting up more often than usual. Initially, I believe it was due to anxiety over all the new and unusual changes. Now that some more time has passed I’m leaning towards sheer boredom and cabin fever, which can really rile kids up as they’re naturally active and a lack of stimulation isn’t a great mood-booster.

My tactic to calm my boys down is the sympathy approach, no matter what the cause of distress. If they’re crying because they can’t see their friends, or go to their favorite park down the street because of “evil COVID,” I’ll do my best to empathize with them emotionally first and then verbally. I try not to be dismissive because even young children can feel that you’re not taking it seriously and the goal is just to quiet them down. My youngest son is very hands-on and physical contact helps a lot, so I’ll rub his back while I ask him to tell me what’s going on and why he’s unhappy. I’ll quietly ask if he can please stop crying because it’s making me sad and I’m having trouble understanding, I want to understand to help. Even if it’s a repeat issue and I get “but we already TALKED about this” I’ll ask if we can talk about it again and maybe come up with something new. My eldest son prefers to keep a distance when he’s in a bad mood, so I’ll sit or stand next to him and ask if we can talk. I’ll always tell my boys there’s zero shame in crying, but that we adults need words and explanations to be able to help get to the bottom of things, and usually after it’s out of their systems they’ll manage to speak about the issue.

Imani Francies,

Before explaining how to calm your kids down, it should first be noted that certain foods can help soothe your child. Just as certain foods can cause them to be rowdier throughout the day. 

Giving your child low-fat foods with plenty of fiber can help keep their bodies regulated, keeping them calm. The wrong kind of food can disrupt the natural flow of their digestion, making them physically uncomfortable. Which results in tantrums and crying-spells.

The most useful trick I have learned to help my two-year-old daughter calm down is by counting to 10. I will touch my daughter (hold her shoulders, hug her, or hold her hands) as we count to 10 together. Once we get to 10, she is usually quiet and calm. If she is still a little fussy, then we will wait a few more moments quietly while she gets it all out. 

The key to this is remembering to be patient because our kids sense when we are frustrated. Touching them can be a loving and more gentle way to disarm your child. It provides them comfort through affection which teaches them patience and compassion in high-tension situations. 

Some parents assume you are reinforcing this chaotic behavior if you provide comfort when a child is throwing a tantrum, but really it is the opposite. You are calming them down long enough so they can hear you better and be more receptive. Once they are calm, you can verbally explain their behavior is disliked and provide them with an alternative way to deal with flustered emotions. 

Marisa Donnelly, Founder of Momish Moments

What I’ve discovered is that the most important thing parents can do for their children right now is give them the space to express their needs, and empower them to do so. When working one-on-one with my son on homework, I’m constantly trying to read the signs of his body. When he’s getting squirmy, when he’s looking around, when he’s yawning repeatedly, I will pause and encourage us both to stretch and move from the chair. When I notice he’s escalating, I’ll encourage him to take a big, deep breath and then let it out slowly. I’ll also pause the lesson and set a timer for five minutes, giving him the headspace to recenter, do something fun, or just forget about what was making him stressed for a little bit.

I’ve also been using hands-on activities for redirection. When things are getting stressful, I’ll change the subject and engage him in something he can do with his hands: coloring, drawing with chalk, taking apart a small machine or object, making rubber band bracelets, etc. This physical movement (although small) can redirect without making it apparent that I’m trying to redirect.


Your question is a BIG one these days, seriously! We’ve had some rough times at home and also some very rewarding ones during all of this. One of my children, in particular, had a really hard time adjusting to our “new normal.”

They just couldn’t understand why we weren’t “doing anything.” She struggled a lot initially and that led to some various breakdowns. What we discovered, though, over time, is that providing her with a new craft, skill or sport was a great way of diverting her attention. It also gave her the chance to learn something different than other interests she had before.

I can’t claim it works 100 percent of the time, but it’s useful.

Another technique we’ve used recently is facilitating conversation around her emotion. Teaching her to label her emotions and walk through them in a calmer manner. This always helps put things into perspective for everyone and we always feel better afterward.

Alexandra Fung, CEO of Upparent

As the mom of four kids ranging in age from 6 months to 13 years old, the most effective way we’ve found with my husband for helping them calm down is the same thing we have found works for us – helping them to make a little time and space away from the source of whatever is upsetting them. Whether we get that time through mindful breathing, or walking away from the situation for a bit, or talking together, or doing a countdown depends on the child and her particular personality, but it’s making the space away from the upsetting situation that has been the most important first step for helping them begin to calm down.

As the co-founder of the parent-to-parent recommendations site Upparent, we’ve also started collecting ideas for ways to help our children calm down and relieve stress, with one of my favorites being to designate a wall in the house as a “coloring wall” which kids can draw on, paint and decorate to their heart’s content. I love that this provides a creative, peaceful space for children to call their own, and which they can always go to when they need to relax or just spend some time on their own.

Here is our full collection of parent-recommended stress-relieving activities for kids:

Patrice Lee, Leep4Joy

One of the greatest things a parent can do is to start the day with a prayer, and wake your children up with a beautiful song.  It helps when the children are included in this prayer as well.  This sets the pace for a very good day.

Mom, Dad, children silently observe their parents, and tend to mimic behaviors they’ve observed. If you are calm and peaceful, joyful, or happy, your children will likely be the same.  If you are antsy, upset, bored or disgruntled with life, look for those character traits in your child too.

To avoid boredom, or the antsy feeling, plan unique activities with an occasional surprise each day. Now this may require some creative thought the night before, but it’s well worth the effort.

For example, plan a daily walk in the neighborhood {early morning or whatever works best for your schedule} can lead to a wonderful educational venture.  Ask your children to skip with you. The younger ones will think it’s so much  fun.  The older children will most likely be embarrassed.

On one of your walks, see how many varieties of birds they can spot. On another, have them name the various trees, or take pictures of the trees, blossoms, etc. Have your child look up, and identify a different tree each day when you return home.  Make everything you do, fun or rewarding in some way.

Finally, teach your children to be grateful, and simply begin to enjoy the excitement of each new day that you and your family are alive and well.  

Brandon Foster, Myschoolsupplylists

Trick – Never make them solve a problem when emotions are high

When you have a conflict with your kids, you all need to calm down before doing an argument. Nothing useful can get from trying to lead a discussion with upset and emotionally fragile kids. Please help them to calm down before attempting to solve a problem. 

Ways to calm down in panic situations

Go for a walk – Go outside for a walk and do some exercise. Kids get more benefits from meditation. I advise not to talk for 5-10 minutes while walking or to run so that brains can calm down and clear off the cortisol and flood with endorphins. 

Hug – An instant hug can relieve the stress out of them, and they will calm down in seconds. It is a simple thing that might appeal to your child. 

Show up a fun – A funny meme or a video can help in changing the mood within a matter of seconds. Have a Pinterest board of funny things and share them with your kids to offset the negative emotions, and it helps calm down. 

Listen to music – A soothing music can help your kids calm down. Have a playlist of happy and calm music in your phones and volume up so, besides you; your kids also calm down. 

Dr Chris Norris, SleepStandards

As the world is reeling under COVID-19 pandemic and the human activity coming to a grinding halt due to lock downs and self-isolation, the schools, businesses and offices across the globe are shut down to prevent the spread COVID-19.

Millions ofchildren are compelled to stay at home. I am myself a parent and due to this forcedlockdown, I am having vivid dreams and nightmares during the pandemic.

In such an uncertain situation, it has been really hard and challenging to balance betweenwork, house chores and catering to my child’s needs for education, exercise,appropriate leisure time and rational explanations about the unprecedentedsituation. As a result, my ability to cope up with such trying times has gothindered and there is extreme anxiety.

Childrenconfide on their parents for both emotional and physical safety. But due tothis sudden disruption in their day-to-day life safety, fear, uncertainty, andbeing holed up at home has created extreme pressure onchildren as well as their parents. They are unable to eat properly, do theirdaily chores properly and are finding it challenging to have quality sleep atnight.

The best strategy to calm your child when he is upset, grumpy or grouchy is to turn that frown upside down. Patiently and calmly talk to your child and make him feel that you are hearing his loud emotion. Convince your child that emotions can change. Children are tender-hearted. They do not realize those unpleasant things due to which they feel upset will not last forever. So, such children need reminders that emotions are not fixed and unchangeable.

When my kid is upset, I always use this trick.

First and foremost, I name the emotion. I say: “You seem upset today. See it is veryeasy to convert that frown on your face upside down. You can change that crabbyface into a happy face”.

Then I display or perform by over-exaggerating a scowl and then a smile. Parents can convert this action into a game until the child starts doing it too. Keep doing this action until your child is turning that frown upside down!

I follow up by saying — “Yay! You did it! You changed your angry look into a smile! You changed your emotion. Are you feeling happier now?  Now let’s think and talk about pleasant things and let’s have a joyous and wonderful day!”

Thereis scientific evidence to prove that forcing a grin makes you feel joyful caneven alleviate anxietyand unpleasant thoughts.

Help your child regulate his emotions.Offer your child a hug and make him realize that it is OK to feel angry at times. Offer him comfort by doing the above trick.

Adi Donna, Founder of Cozy Down Home

Breaking their thought cycle to bring them back from full-on meltdown mood

As per my experience, kids cannot listen to you fully unless and until they are calmed down first. It is the reason psychologists recommend advising your kids when their mind is in a calm state; otherwise, they will reach, and your efforts would most probably go fruitless. 

So, I ask them first to breathe slowly and deeply. It has proven to signal the nervous system to calm down and release stress. It is not that easy that you say, and your kid will start doing it. You have to associate it with something that excites them. For example, tell them that they inhale to become a superhero and exhale to release the weakness. It excites them to start doing it. Once achieved, ask them to count backward from 20. It is the activity that makes brain tires and distracts it from the impulse of hyperactivity. Again, associate it with fun imagination. For example, you can ask them to imagine killing monsters with every number by counting backward. 

Kids start showing signals of relaxation after these activities and become calm within a minute or two. Now, it is time to listen to them or to toss something in their mind because their mind shifts from beta to alpha brainwave and becomes ready to accept or listen to the next person. 

Remember, not to ask them forcefully to do these activities; otherwise, their stress level would go higher. Program their mind gradually for this activity by associating it with some exciting imagination. 




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I'm Crystal. I'm married to Dale, and mother to Johnny.Some might say that my life is perfect because I get to do all the cliché wife things like cooking, cleaning, and decorating - but there's more! I also have many hobbies including needlework (crochet), sewing, and reading. My son's education is important, so we homeschool him together.

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