Things to Say when a Student is Upset

Saying calm down to a student almost never helps the situation.  Many times, it agitates the student more and can lead to more intense behavior or increase the duration of the behavior.  


So what should you say instead?  Here are 5 things you can say instead of “calm down.”

1. Nothing

Sometimes just sitting with a student, nodding, and waiting until they calm down can do more to support the student than any words.  Be sure to give enough space during these times too and add in reassuming mhmms so the student knows that you are listening. 


Be aware of eye contact during this time.  Too much can increase agitation and too little can seen disengaged to student.

2. I can tell you are upset.

Acknowledge that you see the student is upset.  Remember, it is okay to have big emotions, what is not okay is to have certain behaviors that can come with them. 


Just acknowledging that you can tell the student is upset can make them feel heard and seen and therefore begin to calm down.

3. I would be mad too.

Validate the student and show them that you too would have those emotions.  Many times the reasons students are upset, even if minor to you, are valid.  Therefore, you can empathize with them.


This can lead to students opening up more so you can get more details about what happened as well.

4. I’m sorry you are feeling this way.

Apologize and show support this way. Be sure to do this in a way that is supportive and healing.

5. Stay quiet and take a deep breath

Model an appropriate coping technique like deep breathing.  Exaggerate it slightly so the student can see and hear what you are doing.  They will more than likely start to engage in this behavior as well.

Remember, when a student is very upset and engaging in possibly dangerous behaviors- it is not a time to teach a coping skill.  Any coping skills that are introduced should have been practiced and adopted by the student prior to this behavior occurring.

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