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Teaching Strategies for Students Who Cry

Janelle Cox

Do you have a student who constantly bursts into tears in your classroom? For many classroom teachers in younger grades, this is an everyday occurrence with some of their students. It’s natural to be drawn to a child who’s crying and to use appropriate teaching strategies. If you immediately rush to their side every time they cry, then the student will always expect you to do so. Crying is a normal response to feeling overwhelmed or sad. However, bursting into tears every day may signal that there’s more than meets the eye. Research shows that as children develop and are better able to communicate, the frequency of crying should decrease. If you notice a student is constantly crying, then you must get to the bottom of why they’re upset, because these frequent tears can be a sign of depression or another underlying issue. Here are a few teaching strategies for dealing with students who cry. Keep in mind, not all students are doing it for attention, they may have a real reason behind the tears.

Teaching Strategies that Comfort the Child

After you’ve determined that the child isn’t just vying for attention, then you should comfort them. Tell them it’ll be OK, and ask if them if they can tell you what’s wrong. For some emotional students, communicating may be hard, so you may have to try other strategies to find out why they’re crying, like having them draw a picture or asking them yes or no questions where they can use gestures. Just letting them know that you are there for them and that everything will be OK can help make the child feel more at ease.

Ignore the Child

If you can determine that the child is only crying to get attention, then psychologists suggest that it’s OK to ignore them. If the crying intensifies and is disrupting to others, then you can encourage the child to go to a “Safe” space that is not disrupting to others. However, it’s essential that you stay the course and not give in, because once an attention-getter sees that all they have to do is cry and you’ll be there. Then they will never stop. Instead, ignore the child until they stop, then you can give them attention. By waiting, you are signaling to the student that you will not tolerate that behavior, but will talk to them when they are acting appropriately. You’re also empowering them to take reasonability for themselves as well as their actions.

Figure Out the Trigger

It’s important that you figure out what triggers a crying child. Do they cry when they feel left out, or do they cry when they want attention? They may be crying because of an underlining emotional issue. You must figure out what triggers the tears in order to stop the constant crying. Talk with the students’ other teachers as well as their parents. These people can help you figure out if the same thing is going on outside of your classroom. Once you can identify the trigger, then you’re more likely to be able to find a solution.

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Distract the Crying Child

Distraction is one of the best teaching strategies you can use when it comes to students who are crying. This is a common tool people have used since children were born. The goal is to simply get the child’s mind away from whatever is upsetting them. The key is to not only distract the crying child, but to redirect them to something more desirable. So in order for this to work, you’ll have to know a little bit about the student’s likes and dislikes. Then you can distract and redirect them to something that you know will make them stop crying. For example, if you know the student loves to play review games on the iPad, then you can tell the student that it’s review time. You’re not “Giving in” to the child, but rather redirecting them onto something more productive that you know they’ll enjoy (and make them stop crying).

Create a Safe Space

Sometimes, all students who are overly emotional need is a place in the classroom where they can go that feels safe. This is a spot where the student can still see what’s going on in the classroom, but also a space that won’t disrupt others. In order for this “Safe space” to work, you’ll have to set some boundaries first. For instance, the child can go there whenever they want to, just as long as they don’t abuse it. They also aren’t able to stay for long periods of time, just enough time to pull themselves together and come back and be part of the class. Many teachers like to designate a space in the back of the classroom that’s comfortable with a chair or sofa. This way, it’s not interrupting to others, but also can help the child relax.

Your goal is to create a safe, positive classroom environment where all students’ needs are being met. So if you have an overly emotional child who cries a lot, you must take the time to figure out what triggers the tears, then find an appropriate response to solve the problem.

Do you have any teaching strategies for dealing with students who cry? Please share your effective methods in the Comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.