De-escalating students is one of the most important things a counselor does. It is a skill to be learned and honed.

Students who need de-escalating are in great crisis, and many times they do not know what made them so upset or how to calm down on their own. When students are like this, they cannot just snap out of it. They need the systematic process of calming down.

Below is my systematic process I walk students through to calm down.

1. Stay calm

When students are upset and out of control, the last thing they need is an adult in their face, in an aggressive manor. This is not the time to correct the behavior or to get the students to do what you want them to do. This is the time to get them back under control and reasoning.

2. Speak softly

The way we speak expresses much of our emotions. We are also showing the students that we are there for them, to get them to feel better — not to punish them or tell them what they are doing wrong. Also, when we speak softly to them, they need to quiet down to hear us. When they start to quiet down and listen, then the de-escalation has begun.

3. Remove from situation

Removing the students from the current situation and area is something that will greatly change their mindset. New scenery gives the students a chance to feel that they are away from what is making them feel out of control.

4. Ask them to breathe

Breathing is one of the best things you can do to reclaim control. Have the students take deep breaths and be aware of their breathing. Breathe in a calm controlled way and get them to breathe in the same rhythm as you are. When we are breathing in the same rhythm of someone else, we feel more connected to them. Bringing your calm presence into the mix helps them reclaim control.

5. Give them options

This gives the students an idea of things they can do to reclaim control. This is an alternative activity that you feel would calm the students down. It ideally would be an activity they would do by themselves so they can feel the calming process.

6. The talk

After they have reclaimed control, then you can have a conversation with them about what happened and how to avoid the loss of control. This conversation should still be had while speaking softly. This is now the time to work on behavior modification, but make sure you pay attention to what the students are saying. This is the moment when the students will tell you what they need to not lose control in the future.