Help Toddlers

How to Help Toddlers Calm Down

7 December 2022
Posted by: Chelsea

Help Toddlers: Toddlers can sometimes suffer from intense bursts of emotion and related outbursts that may be alarming to parents and bystanders. A ‘temper tantrum’ would be one such example.

Fortunately, there are very successful ways to approach these issues and deal with how to help toddlers calm down.

Why outbursts happen

Although not all toddlers suffer from these incidents, they are relatively commonplace.

The symptoms may vary from what appears to be hysterical crying or screaming, anger attacks, temper tantrums and sometimes even efforts to break things or hurt others around them. Typically, if help is provided, these incidents are of very short duration. Usually, they’ll last less than 5 minutes before calming down.

Child development specialists aren’t entirely sure why these things arise but the presumption is that toddlers may be developing the normal ‘big’ emotions we all have such as anger, fear, disappointment, frustration and so on. Unlike adults though, they lack the vocabulary to express what they’re feeling and also probably haven’t yet learned to fully control their negative emotions. The only outlet they have then is action via tantrums and other such displays.

What to do to Help Toddlers

If your child demonstrates that they’re in danger of getting out of control, it’s important to act quickly but also sympathetically. Simply telling the child off or punishing them is highly unlikely to be effective and it may prove to be harmful in the sense of further frustrating them.

Remembering that the toddler probably has little idea why they’re feeling such emotions, try the ‘time-in’ approach to help toddlers:

  • check their immediate vicinity and remove anything breakable. Ask other children to move away a little – many toddlers will do this instinctively anyway when they see another having such difficulties;
  • go to your child and kneeling, hug and reassure them that everything’s OK. Very few toddlers will continue such behaviours for long if they’re receiving direct parental or care-provider attention of this type;
  • once calm has been restored, even if your child is still distressed a little, take them to a quiet place where you and they can sit and be undisturbed. Once your child is fully calm, try asking them how they felt and what it was that made them so angry or so sad;
  • once you identify the drivers behind the behaviour, help them to think through what they might have been able to do to avoid slipping into anger or sadness etc. Again, try not to tell them to avoid such behaviour in future by threatening sanctions. Instead, help your child to understand their emotions and how they can be controlled to everyone’s benefit.

Don’t expect immediate success.

Toddlers may take time to learn to control their emotions and many will not be able to understand complex reasoning. That’s why it’s important to show you’re there for them and that this is a short-term problem they will overcome. It might also help to explain to them that other children of their age experience the same feelings.

Genuine behavioural problems

It’s important not to confuse these outbursts of emotion with what are sometimes called “behavioural problems”. Temper tantrums etc., are experienced by many children as a brief passing phase of their development.

In some comparatively rare cases though, some toddlers may show a pre-disposition towards such outbursts meaning specialist advice and assistance may be required.

The symptoms of such might include:

  • your toddler does not respond to extended cuddling, re-assurance and time-in calming efforts;
  • their outbursts are regularly of extended duration, say over 5 minutes;
  • the emotional attacks are happening very regularly and the frequency appears to be increasing over time;
  • there is evidence of a deliberate and systematic effort to harm themselves, other children, care providers or property around them;
  • the outbursts are accompanied by other physical symptoms including vomiting, breathing difficulties, raised temperature or problems with vision.

In all such cases, it would be advisable to consult a doctor for a check-up which will help toddlers.

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