How to Calm a Dysregulated Child

When a child becomes dysregulated, it can be a challenging and overwhelming experience for both the child and their caregiver. Dysregulation refers to the state of being overwhelmed emotionally or behaviorally, which can manifest in a variety of ways such as meltdowns, tantrums, withdrawal, or aggression.

How to Calm a Dysregulated Child

As caregivers, it is our responsibility to help calm our children when they become dysregulated. However, this can be a difficult task as each child is unique and may require different strategies for calming down. In this guide, we will discuss some helpful techniques that can help you to know how to calm a dysregulated child and support them in regulating their emotions.

Understanding Dysregulation

Before we dive into the strategies for calming a dysregulated child, it is essential to understand what dysregulation is and how it affects children. Dysregulation can occur due to various reasons such as stress, fatigue, hunger, sensory overload, or emotional triggers. It can also be a result of underlying neurological or developmental differences.

When a child becomes dysregulated, their nervous system is in a state of “fight or flight,” which means they are in a heightened sense of arousal and may have difficulty controlling their emotions and behaviors. This can be overwhelming for the child, and they may react by lashing out, shutting down, or becoming overwhelmed with intense emotions.

Sign of a Dysregulated Child

It is essential to be able to recognize when a child is dysregulated so that we can intervene promptly and help them regulate their emotions. Some common signs of a dysregulated child include:

1. Intense displays of emotions – A dysregulated child may exhibit extreme emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, or frustration.

2. Physical changes – The child’s body may show physical signs of being dysregulated, such as tense muscles, rapid breathing, or sweating.

3. Irritability – A dysregulated child may become easily irritated and may have difficulty calming down.

4. Disruptive behaviors – Children who are dysregulated may act out by throwing tantrums, breaking rules, or exhibiting aggressive behavior.

5. Withdrawal – Some children may withdraw and become uncommunicative when dysregulated. They may appear distant, uninterested, or lethargic.

11 Best Ways on How to Calm a Dysregulated Child

1. Stay Calm and Regulate Your Own Emotions:

Regulate Your Own Emotions

The first step in calming a dysregulated child is to regulate your own emotions. Children can pick up on our energy and emotions, so if we are feeling anxious or overwhelmed ourselves, it will only escalate the child’s dysregulation. Take deep breaths, use self-calming techniques like mindfulness or grounding exercises, and try to remain calm and patient. This will help the child to feel safe and supported.

2. Validate Their Feelings:

It is crucial to validate a child’s feelings, even if they may seem irrational or exaggerated. Let them know that it is okay to feel angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed and that their emotions are valid. This will help the child to feel heard and understood, which can diffuse their intense emotions. If possible, use language that reflects their feelings to them, such as “I can see that you are feeling upset right now.”

3. Use Sensory Tools:

Sensory tools can be beneficial in regulating a dysregulated child’s emotions. These can include fidget toys, weighted blankets, noise-canceling headphones, or sensory bins. Allow the child to choose which sensory tool they would like to use and encourage them to engage with it until they feel calmer. Using sensory tools can help to regulate the child’s nervous system and provide a sense of comfort.

4. Create a Safe Space:

Having a designated safe space for a dysregulated child can help regulate their emotions. This could be their bedroom, a quiet corner in the house, or even outside in nature. When the child becomes overwhelmed, they can retreat to this safe space and engage in calming activities such as drawing, reading, or listening to music. This will help them to feel in control and reduce their feelings of dysregulation.

5. Use Redirection:

Redirecting a Child's Attention

Sometimes, redirecting a child’s attention can help to regulate their emotions. This could involve engaging the child in an activity they enjoy or changing the environment. For example, if the child is becoming overwhelmed at a crowded playground, suggest moving to a quieter area or engaging in a different activity together. Using redirection can help to break the cycle of dysregulation and provide a distraction.

6. Practice Deep Breathing:

Deep breathing is an effective self-regulation technique that can help to calm a dysregulated child. Teach the child how to take deep breaths, counting in for four seconds and out for eight seconds. This will activate their parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes feelings of calm and relaxation. This is a valuable tool that children can use independently when they feel overwhelmed.

7. Offer Choices:

Empowering a dysregulated child by offering them choices can help to regulate their emotions. For example, asking them if they would like to take a break or continue with the activity, giving them options for sensory tools, or letting them choose what they want to eat for a snack. Providing choices can give the child a sense of control, which can be reassuring when they feel dysregulated.

8. Use Visual Aids:

Visual Aids Can Be Beneficial

Visual aids can be beneficial in helping a dysregulated child to understand and regulate their emotions. This could include using emotion charts, social stories, or visual schedules. These tools can help the child to identify and label their feelings, understand what triggers their dysregulation, and learn strategies for regulating their emotions. Visual aids can also help provide a sense of predictability and routine.

9. Engage in Calming Activities:

Engaging in calming activities can help to reduce a child’s feelings of dysregulation. This could include yoga, stretching exercises, drawing or coloring, listening to calming music, or reading a book. These activities can help the child to redirect their thoughts and emotions positively, promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation.

10. Practice Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is another effective self-regulation technique that can be used to calm a dysregulated child. Encourage the child to focus on their breathing, pay attention to their senses, and be present in the moment. This will help them to ground themselves and become aware of their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Practicing mindfulness regularly can also help the child to regulate their emotions in the long term.

11. Seek Professional Support:

If a child consistently struggles with dysregulation, it may be beneficial to seek professional support from a therapist or counselor. They can provide specific strategies and techniques tailored to the child’s needs and help them to understand and regulate their emotions effectively. Seeking professional support can also provide a safe space for the child to express their feelings and work through any underlying issues that may be contributing to their dysregulation.

Seeking Professional Support

Following these tips can help you to effectively calm a dysregulated child and promote positive emotional regulation. Remember to be patient, validate their feelings, and practice self-care for yourself as well. With consistency and support, children can learn how to regulate their emotions in healthy ways.  So, keep practicing and stay calm!  Happy parenting!

Additional Tips and Tricks to Calm a Dysregulated Child

1. Instead of saying “Don’t do this” or “Stop that”, try using positive language such as “Let’s try this instead” or “How about we do it this way”. This can help to avoid power struggles and promote cooperation.

2. Use redirection techniques to help redirect your child’s attention away from their dysregulation. This can include suggesting a different activity, taking a short break, or using humor and distraction to diffuse the situation.

3. Model calm behavior by remaining calm. Children often mirror the emotions of those around them, so staying calm can help to regulate your child’s emotions as well.

4. Offer choices to give your child a sense of control and autonomy. For example, you can ask them if they would like to calm down by taking deep breaths or squeezing a stress ball.

5. Use sensory strategies such as deep pressure touch, weighted blankets, or fidget toys to help your child regulate their senses and emotions.

6. Keep in mind that every child is different and what works for one child may not work for another. It’s important to be patient and try different techniques until you find what works best for your child.

7. Seek professional help if your child’s dysregulation persists or significantly impacts their daily life. A therapist or behavioral specialist can provide personalized strategies and support for both you and your child.

8. Encourage your child to express their emotions through words or drawing instead of acting out physically. This can help them learn healthy ways to cope with and communicate their feelings.

9. Practice consistent routines and structure in your child’s day-to-day life. Predictability can promote a sense of security and stability, which can help prevent dysregulation.

Structure in Your Child's Day-to-day Life

10. Take care of your own mental health and well-being. Parenting a dysregulated child can be challenging, so it’s important to prioritize self-care and seek support from friends, family, or a therapist when needed.

11. Remember that dysregulation is a normal part of childhood development and it’s okay for children to experience and learn how to manage their emotions. Being patient, understanding, and supportive can go a long way in helping your child navigate their emotions. 

Following these additional tips and tricks can help you better support your child when they are feeling dysregulated.

Remember to be patient, stay calm, and seek professional help if needed. With time and effort, you and your child can learn effective strategies for managing emotions and promoting overall well-being.  So keep practicing, stay positive, and have faith in yourself as a parent! Your love and support can make a world of difference for your child.  Happy parenting!

Things You Should Consider to Calm a Dysregulated Child

1. The first thing you should consider when trying to calm a dysregulated child is the environment they are in. It is important to create a quiet, calm, and safe space for the child to help them regulate their emotions.

2. Another important factor to consider is the child’s routine and schedule. Consistency and predictability can be very soothing for children, especially when they are feeling overwhelmed or dysregulated.

3. It is also crucial to validate the child’s feelings and emotions. Let them know that it is okay to feel upset or angry, and offer support and understanding.

Validate the Child's Feelings

4. Engaging in calming activities such as deep breathing exercises, going for a walk, or listening to calming music can also help a dysregulated child regulate their emotions.

5. Providing structure and clear boundaries can also be helpful for a child who is dysregulated. This helps them feel safe and secure and gives them a sense of control.

6. As a caregiver or parent, it is important to regulate your own emotions and remain calm when dealing with a dysregulated child. Children often mirror the emotions of those around them, so staying composed can help the child calm down faster.

7. It is important to recognize triggers or patterns that may lead to dysregulation in the child and work on finding ways to prevent or manage them.

8. Seeking professional help and guidance from a therapist or counselor can also be beneficial for both the child and their caregivers in learning effective strategies for managing dysregulation.

9. Practicing mindfulness and self-care as a caregiver is crucial to effectively support and calm a dysregulated child. Taking care of yourself enables you to better take care of the child.

10. Lastly, it is important to remember that every child is different and may have unique needs when it comes to regulating their emotions. Being patient, understanding, and adaptable can go a long way in helping a child learn how to self-regulate.

Following these considerations can greatly help in calming a dysregulated child and creating a positive, supportive environment for their emotional development. Remember to be patient and offer love and support to the child as they learn to regulate their emotions. With time and consistency, they will develop effective coping mechanisms that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Dysregulated Child?

A dysregulated child has difficulty managing their emotions and behaviors. This can manifest itself in different ways, such as tantrums, meltdowns, aggression, or withdrawal. Dysregulation can be caused by various factors, including trauma, sensory overload, anxiety, or developmental delays.

Dysregulation is a Common Experience

It is important to note that dysregulation is a common experience for children and is not always indicative of a serious underlying issue. However, if a child’s dysregulation is persistent and significantly interferes with their daily functioning, it may be necessary to seek professional help.

How Can I Identify Dysregulation in My Child?

As mentioned before, dysregulation can present itself in many different ways. Some common signs of dysregulation in children include difficulty controlling their emotions (e.g. frequent outbursts, mood swings), difficulty focusing and paying attention, physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches, and changes in behavior (e.g. sudden aggression or withdrawal).

It is important to pay attention to any significant changes in your child’s behavior and emotions, as well as their overall functioning.

What Can I Do to Help My Dysregulated Child?

Various strategies can help calm a dysregulated child. The first step is to remain calm and patient, as children often pick up on their parent’s or caregiver’s emotions. It can also be helpful to validate your child’s feelings and provide them with a safe and supportive environment.

You can also try using sensory techniques, such as deep-pressure massage or weighted blankets, to help your child regulate their emotions. Additionally, practicing self-regulation techniques and teaching them to your child can be beneficial in the long run.

When Should I Seek Professional Help?

If your child’s dysregulation is persistent and significantly affects their daily functioning, it may be necessary to seek professional help. This could include therapy from a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist.

A professional can help identify any underlying causes of dysregulation and provide your child with appropriate coping skills and strategies. It is always important to trust your instincts as a caregiver and seek help when needed.

Are There Any Long-term Effects of Dysregulation in Children?

Constant dysregulation can have long-term effects on a child’s development, including emotional regulation, cognitive functioning, and social skills. It can also lead to difficulties in school or with relationships. However, with early intervention and appropriate support, these effects can be minimized. It is crucial to address dysregulation in children as soon as possible to prevent any long-term consequences.


All in all, knowing how to calm a dysregulated child is an essential skill for parents, caregivers, and anyone working with children. By understanding what dysregulation is and how to identify it, as well as having strategies and resources to support a child in regulating their emotions, we can create a safe and nurturing environment for our children to thrive. Remember to always seek professional help if needed and trust your instincts as a caregiver.

With patience, understanding, and support, we can help our dysregulated children learn to regulate their emotions and live happy and healthy lives.  So, stay calm, validate their feelings, and practice self-care to better support your child in their emotional development. Happy parenting!

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Loren Jones

Hi, my name is Loren. I live with my husband and 4 lovely kiddos in the Eastern part of San-fransisco. I have a smart beautiful,curious 6 year old daughter, a handsome 11-year-old son, an intelligent and tech geek 15 years old son and a creative, artistic 12-year-old stepson. With each of my kids being five years apart, I feel that I’m now continually phasing in and out of each stage of parenting! I’ve learned a lot about the way children learn and behave, especially in a school setting with regards to curriculum. I enjoy sharing that insight through my writing and hope that it can help others.

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