What helps them to calm down is to be calm yourself. Speak in a gentle tone. Use soothing words. Find positives even if the world seems to be crashing down.
Did you know that is what paramedics do in an emergency?
When they are rescuing a bloody, immobile, rock climbing victim who has just fallen 30 feet, they talk calmly. Most of the time they encourage the patient to talk about their hobbies and even laugh sometimes during the rescue! I am amazed at their skill! Accident victims are so appreciative of the calmness of the paramedics in a crisis.
Trying to calm children down in the middle of a crisis is like trying to rescue them from out-of-control emotions. We can be like the calm paramedics trying to make the best of a bad situation.
For example: (not really a crisis)
On Monday night we decided to play miniature golf. Our son was so excited to see the Halloween decorations they put up every year. When we got there, it was way too crowded for my husband and I to enjoy playing. We made three different offers instead of playing: let's go get a shake, go get a toy, or play in the ball cage and rock climb.
Our son gladly chose the third option. We stayed until it was bedtime. My son was hungry and thought that we could get a shake on the way home. I said it was too late but I would make him a home shake. He hung his head in sadness all the way home.
The 'old me' would have taken his sadness personally. I would not be tolerant of his mood. I would have said, "How can you be upset? We just took you to rock climb and play in the ball cage and on the trampoline. Maybe we won't take you next time if you are going to be upset about it." But I didn't say that.
We acknowledged his sadness. We didn't lecture or judge his moodiness. Everyone has moods sometimes, I know I do. I don't like to have to justify every mood I have. Why make him? We didn't try to distract him out of it. We didn't try to fix it. Who knows why he was this moody? I think he was tired and hungry. My husband and I talked about the car we might buy.
When we got home, I helped my son out of the car. He was acting too sad to move, hanging his head and not answering me. As I gently guided him out of the car, he put his head on my shoulder and was limp as if he was asleep. I said to Dad, "Look at him." My son giggled. I said 'look at him' again. He giggled again. I was happy, because I half expected my son to wig out and get mad that he didn't get what he wanted and had to go to bed.
My son said he would have made a different choice if he knew he could only do one of them. Sorry, honey. It got too late.
We were able to quickly have a little homemade shake and get to bed.
My husband and I were happy that his little mood only lasted about 15 minutes and we averted what could have been an ugly scene. Instead we were hugging and giggling. Emotion Coaching. It works!!!
P.S. So what would I have done if I had five kids and couldn't cater to one of them? Same thing. (Except for physically helping my seven year old out of the car.) Acknowledge the emotion. Express empathy. Avoid lecturing, or judging the mood. State expectations. "I know you are upset, but I need you to get out of the car, come in the house and get ready for bed." I know, easier said than done. I admire you moms with many kids! I wish I was you! Keep up your great work!