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Containing a child’s emotions

Acknowledge that you can see how they are feeling and name the emotion. “I can see you are feeling anxious…”

Validate their feelings. Explain to them that you understand how upset they feel. “It’s ok to feel that. I feel anxious too about new things.”

Contain: talk to the child in a calming and soothing tone of voice. Be clear, concise, consistent and use boundaries in your approach. Give a clear instruction of the behaviour you do not want to see. “I need you to…

Distract: re-direct their attention to another activity involving one of the senses such as focusing on their breathing (5 things you can see… ;using hand breathing etc), doing a task, going for a run.

Reflect: once the child has had time to calm and settle down, talk through the situation in a structured  ‘worry time’ with the view of helping the child to find a solution/strategy that helps them to contain their big emotions such as anxiety and anger.

Make a calm plan with them to refer to with a list of identified distractions, to have ready for next time. 

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