Under the Umbrella: Crisis De-escalation

SadWe all want to have our homes be a peaceful environment. But we all know that even the best laid plans can sometimes go amiss. Many parents, whether seasoned or brand new, have found themselves with a child in crisis at one point or another. When that happens, it can be a very tense, sometimes scary, situation. So, how do you handle a crisis situation? Below are some tips that may help you de-escalate the situation and bring a feeling of calm back into the home.

  • Stay calm. Any escalation in your emotional state has the chance to heighten the emotional state of the child in crisis. If you are co-parenting, you can try to “tag team” in to and out of the situation. For those who are not parenting with another person, you might want to have someone in your support system who can be “on call” if a crisis situation arises. Having trouble staying calm? It can be helpful to remember to breathe deeply and talk slowly to the child in crisis.
  • One step at a time. The middle of a crisis is usually not the best time to try to solve the issue that caused the crisis in the first place. In most cases, each party involved needs some time to return to feeling calm before they can address whatever brought the crisis on. Later, you might sit down with the child and ask, “Can we talk about what upset you?”You may also want to come up with a plan for what to do the next time he or she is feeling the same way.
  • Stay focused. Try to help the child focus on his or her feelings. As things begin to return to a state of calm, keep asking him or her how he or she is feeling. Do your best to stay focused on the situation and try to not let the child lead the conversation elsewhere. You might clarify any statements the child makes about feelings or their perception of what just happened by summarizing and restating what he said back to him. (“I hear that you are feeling very angry.” “I understand that you feel frustrated right now.”)
  • Plan ahead. You may want to keep track of what works and what does not when your family encounters a crisis situation. Those notes might be helpful in developing a plan for your family to use in similar situations int he future. A different plan may be needed to fit the specific needs of the different children in your care. What will you say? What will you do? Are there any phrases or items that can help the child feel more calm more quickly? Planning both what you, as a parent, can do and helping the child plan for future situations can help to mitigate any feelings of anxiety – and might help bring a crisis situation back to calm more quickly.

Do you have any tips that you and your family use in crisis situations? Please visit our Facebook page and share your knowledge with other families! After a crisis, it can be helpful to process with someone; perhaps a co-parent, a friend, or a therapist. Please know that you can also call us at the Coalition if you need to process afterwards or if you would like some support in planning ahead. Our Resource Specialists can help by simply listening or making some referrals for additional support or services. Our toll-free number is 1-800-762-8063 or you can reach us via email at info@coalitionforcyf.org.

Featured Tip Sheets

Effective Management of Crisis Behavior

Helping Children in Care Build Trusting Relationships

The Journey of Forgiveness

Under the Umbrella is the weekly enewsletter from the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. If you would like to sign up to receive this newsletter in your in box, please do so here.


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