How to Recognise When Your Child Feels Agitated

agitated child

Reading time: 2 minutes

Suitable for: Families of primary-age children

When your child feels agitated, they have a feeling of intense restlessness and feel worked up inside. It’s a common feeling for both adults and children when we feel stressed or under pressure. 

Common reasons for children to feel agitated include:

When your child is agitated, they are easily annoyed. The littlest thing may provoke them. It could be brought on by a specific event or for no obvious reason.

If your child is feeling agitated, they may seem restless and unable to sit still. You might notice them chewing on their nails, tapping their feet, or displaying other repetitive movements, like pacing.

Why does my child pace?

Pacing means walking backwards and forwards or around in circles repeatedly. It’s a type of moment often shown by children when they feel agitated.

Pacing is a particularly common for children with autism. Repetitive movements like pacing are often referred to as “stimming”.

Children pace when they feel stressed, upset, or overwhelmed with emotion. It gives them a physical outlet to let those feelings out. Pacing helps your child self-regulate powerful emotions, but also lets them focus intently on one thing — blocking everything else out. 

Pacing is only a problem when it interferes with school or home life, is compulsive, or if you feel your child is at risk. However, if you notice your child pacing a lot or an increase in their pacing, it’s best to see your GP for further advice.

Agitated child looking worried

How can I support when my child feels agitated?

There may be specific triggers or times when you know your child struggles to regulate their emotions. Agitation is often a sign that the environment is too overwhelming for your child. It may be too bright, loud, or busy for them to manage. Try taking them somewhere quieter and more calming.

Often there are warning signs that your child feels agitated. You can take action before they feel overwhelmed.

Good calming down activities include:

Talk with your child about how they’re feeling. Label the emotion and help them understand why they feel that way.

If they feel ready to talk, listen without trying to fix their problem. Instead, help them devise their own solutions to reduce any pressure they feel under. 

Further support

Is your child struggling with big emotions? We run regular webinars and parenting classes that can help you better understand your child’s emotions and the common behaviours you might be experiencing. Browse upcoming events.

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