Emergencies, no matter the type, can be especially frightening for babies and young children. They have likely never had such experiences before and don't know what to expect or how to act. Instead of having a screaming, frightened toddler on your hands on top of an already stressful situation, you can take some steps to help calm your children down so they can work with you instead of against you.
Keep yourself as calm as possible. Children mimic the actions of their parents and other significant adults in their life, so if you want young children to stay calm in an emergency, don't let them see you sweat. Instead of freaking out, see what simple, calm actions you can take to better the situation and carry them out in as relaxed a manner as you possibly can.
Follow a set routine. Children, especially young ones, find comfort in familiar, daily routines and actions. If an emergency arises, do whatever you can to keep them comfortable without changing what they're accustomed to.
Give children calming activities to do while you deal with the emergency. What activities you select depend on the child. Things like colouring pages or a favourite toy or game will give her something familiar and comforting to touch while a stressful event is happening. For children who are a bit older, try activities that create order out of disorder, such as puzzles.
Give physical comfort if the child is visibly upset and crying or hurt because of the situation. Sit the child in your lap, sing softly, rub his back, or making calming noises to bring him into a more relaxed state. You can also do this to make sure he does not feel alone.
Answer questions simply, without giving unnecessary details that the child won't be able to understand or have time to process. The more you can simplify, the better the child will feel about the situation.
Try meditation techniques to take a child's mind off the current emergency. While children won't be willing to sit still in a meditative pose and chant, you can try having them make animal noises with actions or do simple dance moves while singing. This will take their mind somewhere else for the time being and help get rid of some of their nervous energy.
- Scholastic; Ages and Stages: How to Calm and Comfort Children; Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D., et al.; 2006
- The Daily Beast; The Child-Meditation Miracle; Gwynne Watkins; Aug. 3, 2010
- USA Today; Calm Young Children; Explain to Older Kids; Karen S. Peterson; Sept. 11, 2001
- The Calm Mom; Managing Sibling Rivalry Among Young Children; Jan. 18, 2011
- AskDrSears.com; Croup; Treating Croup; Calm Your Child