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Coping: With babies and children who are intense and irritable

About 10 per cent of children are born with a tendency to be irritable and intense. These children are more sensitive to things like light, sound, activity and touch. As babies, they often cry a lot. When they are older, they seem to get upset easily about a lot of things. These children respond by whining or crying, perhaps by being aggressive, or maybe anxious. They may be easily triggered into intense rage, and they take a long time to calm down.

It's important to understand that this is nobody's fault. It isn't easy to be a parent to an intense child, and it can sometimes make a parent feel angry or like a failure. It is easy for parents and child to get trapped in a vicious cycle. The child acts in a negative way, which makes others treat her negatively. And that convinces her everyone is against her, which leads to a continuation of the behaviours.

A child who is irritable and intense needs a lot of patience and understanding. Here are a few suggestions for helping your child learn to deal with his feelings:

  • Support your child around things that upset him - whether it's crowds, loud noises, or whatever it is that you know bothers your child most.

  • Watch for cues that tell you your child is building towards a blow-up, and try to soothe or distract her before it happens.

  • Encourage your child to talk about how she is feeling - putting feelings into words can help control irritability.

  • Establish regular times during each day for calm, relaxing and fun activities - like listening to soft music or playing quiet games to reduce stress in your child's life.

  • Establish consistent routines, so that your child knows what to expect.

  • And, always praise your child when he copes successfully.

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