cranky child

Whining, Fussing, And Crying, No More: 5 Ways To Soothe A Cranky Child

All kids get cranky. It’s just a fact of life. And it’s no surprise that kids with cancer sometimes get a little more cranky than other kids. They might be scared, confused, or feel some pain. Who wouldn’t get a bit fussy?

Crabbiness can be frustrating in the moment, but it can come to an end.

Here are 5 ways to soothe a cranky child—and get a little peace and quiet back in your day.

1. Let Him Feel Free.

Young kids—especially toddlers—get cranky when they feel like they can’t be free. They don’t want to be hooked up to an IV or have to stay confined in one room. These kids want to be free to run and explore.

Try giving him a cubby or a corner with lots of toys, and a soft play mat to move around comfortably. He’ll feel like he is in charge of exploring the toys and activities without the need to run all over.

cranky child

2. Give Him A Break.

Kids often throw fits when they’re scared or anxious. When your child is crying or may be feeling overwhelmed, it’s natural to want to stay with him to try to calm him down. However, sometimes the key is to give him a little alone time.

Give him a few minutes alone to cry, punch his pillow, or do whatever he needs to do to let it all out.

When you go back in, restore his sense of control before you try to reason with him. Let him explain what he’s scared of, and reassure him that you’re listening to what he needs. Then, remind him that no one is trying to hurt him or be mean—they want to help.

Sometimes, you just can’t reason with your child, even when he’s had some alone time. However, that alone time can still work wonders. Having the thought, “I’m alone and I won’t get poked right now,” can be enough. He’ll appreciate the fact that you gave him a break.

3. And Give Her A Break From You.

This can be particularly hard for some parents. But giving a child a break from her parents can help her stay calm and cheery—especially if she’s a little older.

Older kids don’t always want to sit with their parents all day. Invite other people she will enjoy spending time with, like a friend or grandparent. Allow her to be social and have some time away, just like other kids her age.

Just remember: Even if your child needs a little break from you, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love or need you anymore. She’s just being a kid.

4. Prevent Future Crankiness With Structure.

It’s easy to let bedtime and naptime rules slide a little when your child is heading to the hospital. Unfortunately, that can backfire, since kids tend to get cranky when they’re tired.

Remind your child—and yourself—that a treatment day isn’t a “free” day, and the night before isn’t a weekend night. If you wouldn’t let your child stay up until 2 a.m. on a normal weekday, don’t let him stay up late the night before treatment or admission.

Your child might be a little miffed when you try to put him to bed at the same time as always, but be firm and stick to a normal schedule. That consistency will ensure that he gets enough sleep, and isn’t quite so cranky the next day.

5. Take Her To The Doctor.

When you have a child who is going through a rough time, crankiness is to be expected. She might cry, scream, or throw a tantrum. And while it’s certainly frustrating, it’s usually just your kid being a kid.

However, excessive crankiness could be a sign that something else is wrong. According to the US National Library of Medicine, excessive fussiness or irritability can be signs of illnesses, like ear infections or the flu.

If your child is also experiencing other symptoms, like stomachaches, fast breathing, or diarrhea, it might be time to head to the physician. Kids with cancer can be far more vulnerable to infection, so if you are having any doubts, take her to the doctor.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Christy Hogan
My background is in child development, and I use this knowledge to connect and build trust with patients and families. I’ve been a child life specialist for more than 20 years.

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