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How To Comfort A Child Who Is Upset

You are ready to leave the house in the next 5 minutes, but your child has started work on his puzzle. You remind him that it’s time to leave, he continues to ignore you. Now, you are getting impatient. This time you give a stern reminder. End result, your child is upset. He now has an outburst just as you are about to step out the door. Wondering, what to do when a child is upset? How to comfort a child who is upset?

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In any situation when your child is angry or upset, it helps to first take a step back and understand what caused the anger and frustration.

From my own experience I can tell you, that most of the times little children are pushed to their limits by strict schedules and lack of freedom in their environments.

Their brains are not yet developed to rationalize situations and regulate the emotions they feel. What may seem like a reasonable request to us as parents may lead to an angry meltdown in children.

Take the example I made in the introduction of this post, it would have helped if we prepare the child about what comes next in the day, before he gets started with his puzzle. 

If an adult is busy with work, we wait before we interrupt, right? But, many times that is not the case with our children. We may expect our children to simply comply without considering what is going on in the moment with the child.

Considering the child’s point of view can help us approach the situation with more patience ourselves.

Related reading : Phrases to say when your toddler doesn’t listen.


1. Get down to the child’s level.

2. Acknowledge the emotion 

Say phrases like, “I see you/hear you/I understand.” Feeling heard is the first step in any conflict resolution.

3. Name the emotion

If possible name the emotion for the child. “I see you felt bad when I said we need to leave right now.”

I find this My Feelings Card Set quite useful in helping children understand and name emotions. It creates awareness about what to expect and how the child can act after a violent episode.

4. Offer a solution

You can say, “We leave in 5 minutes, you can finish the puzzle now, or you can leave it here on the table and complete it when we get back. What do you want?”

Allow the child some time to process what you said rather than simply rushing him along the day.

Things are more easier when we as parents adjust our expectations, consider a child’s pace of things and understand his world before we set our routines and limits.

5. Help child make amends

If the child has hurt you in his angry fit, help him make amends. Hug it out, say sorry if you hurt his feelings, they learn to say sorry when they see us take their feelings into consideration too.

Related reading : Aggression in toddlers.


Some phrases that can work to help calm down an upset child are :

I am here for you.

I understand its difficult/hard for you.

It is okay to be upset.

I am right here next to you.

I will be here when you calm down.

It is okay to feel upset, but, its not okay to ()

Let us breathe in breathe out (show belly breathing)

Here, punch a pillow and get that anger out. (proceed to demonstrate)

Can you tell me what happened?

This was not what you wanted. (Acknowledgement helps to change the direction of the tantrum to solution seeking.)

That is bad, I am here for you.

You look mad, tell me, what is happening?

Let us start over. (count to 3 together)


  1. Say the magic words, “I love you.” Sometimes, when the child knows he has behaved unpleasantly he may feel like he lost our love. It is important we reassure him of our love and take a moment to say the magic words, “I love you.”

2. If the child allows, give him a hug.

3. Describe the situation. If the child is too little to express clearly to you what happened and how he feels, describe the situation to him. Describing acts as a way for you to acknowledge the situation and emotions and gives him words to express better next time.

Big emotions are a part of the toddler years. Instead of using labels like, “terrible twos“, and using punishments or bribes to get children to listen, if we simply adjust our expectations, understand toddler behavior and use a gentle parenting approach to parenting we can create a peaceful household.

Being responsive to children during moments of stress is also beneficial to their brain development and actually teaches them to regulate better.

Save this pin on Pinterest to access the phrases later.

how to calm down an upset child

Hope this post helps you gain a better understanding of why toddler tantrums happen and how you can help comfort your angry child.

3 thoughts on “How To Comfort A Child Who Is Upset”

  1. My child was having a meltdown and I was able to confirm that I was doing the right thing to comfort her by reading this. I’m will be forever confident in my words and actions now


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