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Comforting Children In
A Childcare Setting

Comforting Children...

comforting children
Most children who are afraid will cry and seek comfort from a caring adult.

Some fears are shown in more subtle ways and a child may show signs of being generally anxious.

Children in an unfamiliar environment may react in a variety of ways.

They may show their fears by crying, clinging to their parent/carer, being unwilling to try new experiences, loss of appetite, sleeping problems etc.

As children cannot always tell you what the source of their anxiety is, you must try and identify the cause.

Dealing with the problem depends on the cause of the anxiety.

Some children may need more reassurance than anticipated in certain situations, so it is important to know about any special methods for helping individual children.

Listening to what parents and carers tell you about this will help. Generally children will respond positively to...

  • clear and honest explanations about what is going to happen. You may need to repeat these explanations, as young children may not remember or understand what you have said.
  • in the case of an unexpected incident, clear explanation of what has just happened.
  • a reassuring cuddle - although some children may not appreciate physical comfort.
  • stress-reducing activities like playdough, looking at books, painting etc.
  • having their prefered comfort objects, such as a special blanket or soft toy. This is especially important for the under 2s. Young children should not be discouraged from having their prefered comfort objects as they help to bridge the gap between the home setting and the care environment.
They also play an important part in helping children to become more confident and independent in new situations. Comfort objects should be readily available to children.

It may be advisable to keep all comforters, labelled with the children's names, in a central location until they are needed.

A list of comforters and particular remedies will be useful if it can be displayed where staff can see and refer to it.

Changes And Unexpected Events

Children can easily become unsettled and upset if there are changes to their routine or environment.

This can be more upsetting if the changes are unexpected or not explained, so it is important that, wherever possible, children have advance warning of any changes that you know about.

Telling the children what is going to happen in simple and understantable terms will help to prevent anxiety.

It is important for child-care workers to be positive and cheerful about any changes as this will be reassuring for the children.

It will also be neccessary to repeat and remind the children about what is going to happen.

One of the most upsetting changes for children can be when their child-care worker leaves or is absent because of sickness or holiday.

Whenever possible, children should be prepared for changes, but it is not possible to plan for unexpected events so the children will need to be reassured and comforted if they become distressed.


Children need to develop a sense of belonging and will feel more at home in a setting that contains objects that are familiar to them from their homes and reflect their culture.

For example...

  • The home play area should contain a range of types of cooking equipment - woks, griddles, chop-sticks, as well as saucepans, kettles, knives and forks.
  • Dressing up clothes should reflect a diversity of cultures and include saris, head-dresses, veils etc.
  • A wide selection of books should be available showing positive images of different races, cultures and sexes and reflecting equality of opportunity.
  • Displays should promote all cultures in society. Children can be ecouraged to produce art and/or written work about their homes and families for display.
  • Visitors should be invited to come and talk to the children and help them to experience and appreciate social and cultural diversity.
  • Coat hooks should be labelled with names and/or pictures.
  • Equipment should be personalised - names on cups, flannels, work trays etc.

Offering Reassurance

Child care workers should be warm, caring and responsive. Children easily recognise those who value and appreciate their company and those who have no real interest in them.

The following points can help if you are not confident and will give positive messages to the children in your care.

  • Be calm and try to speak softly.
  • Maintain eye contact when speaking to children and try to get down to their eye level, sit with them or squat down to them if they are playing on the floor.
  • Meet their needs quickly. Pick up the non-verbal clues and anticipate their needs, for example the child hopping from one foot to another may need the toilet.
  • Be ready to cuddle a young child who is unhappy or upset. On the other hand, never force physical comfort on a child who does not welcome it.
  • Encourage conversation and give children time to speak. Ask open questions that will encourage a child to answer with more than a yes or no.
  • Always be cheerful, positive and polite. Enjoy your contact with the children in your care.

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