• Meg

How to stay calm when your child is not

Photo: Kristina Paukshtite

We’ve all been there- its 10 am and your child has their 3rd meltdown of the day. You haven’t even had your breakfast yet. WHY!!???

The best thing that you can do for yourself and your family during these situations is to stay calm. Or as I say to our preschooler, be like a jellyfish and float. Go with the flow of the waves.

Easier said than done, right? Here is a list of strategies you can use to help de-escalate your own emotions so that you can stay calm when your child is not.

Be proactive:

  • Start each morning with a daily check in to see if you are giving yourself what you need in order to be the best version of yourself. Are you getting enough rest, exercise or ‘me’ time?

  • Prepare yourself for moments of chaos and how you’d like your best self to act. What are the triggers that cause you to react rather than respond to your child? Is it hitting, throwing, etc.? Literally create a list of triggers and the best way to respond to each one. If you have gone through this process you will likely handle the situation in real time in a much calmer manner.

  • Choose a mantra that helps you remain calm and centered. I often use “I am light”, or something specific to challenging parenting situations like “I am here to make my child feel safe”.

In the moment:

  • Remove yourself if you need to. Explain to your child that you need a few moments to calm down. This is also modelling a behavior that you want your child to pick up on!

  • Breathe before you respond. If you feel anger in your body take a quick minute to breathe deeply so that you can regulate your own nervous system. Click here to download my favorite breathing exercises: “Square breathing” and “House Breathing”. Again, you’re modeling behavior for your child and its super beneficial to include them in this de-escalation process.

  • Do a quick check-in on your body language. When you relax your muscles you are more likely to feel calm.

  • Avoid reasoning with your toddler when they’re out of regulation. Instead, think of a basic need that your child might be missing right now (i.e. food, sleep, etc). Focus on making them feel safe.

  • Imagine you are being videotaped. Would you be OK with your response to your child?

  • Remind yourself that as long as there is not immediate danger to anyone, your child’s meltdown is not a life or death situation. It does not call for a response to a crisis. Sometimes it feels like their behavior calls for a crisis intervention (trust me, I’ve definitely felt this!) but try to keep in mind that everything is temporary.

  • Learn their love language and use it to comfort them once they’ve settled down.


  • Find a quiet time throughout the day, perhaps at bedtime, to talk about the situation with your child. Explain the steps that you took to feel calm and emphasize how easy it was to problem solve once your body was relaxed. It might be less intimidating for your kiddo to hear how you worked through your frustration before you ask about their experience.

  • Practice gratitude. At the end of your day write down at least 3 specific things that you’re grateful for, and anything that you want to let go of.

When you practice gratitude consistently, you are going to feel a greater sense of calm and contentment throughout your life- I promise.