Helping Students With Emotional Challenges

How to help the emotional student function normally in class.

By Elisa Jackson


Dealing With Emotional Students

Having a student with emotional disabilities in your class can be tough. They look like the other students, and can be as academically advanced as the other students, but they may act out in ways the other students may not. This may cause them to become outcasts and want to act out more. Here are some ways to help them cope, and be successful.

A good way to help emotional students is to get know them and what triggers inappropriate behavior. Then you can give them techniques for handling the types of situations that upset them, and alert them when you see them starting to react. You might give them some kind of a break from the situation. You can send them to the office, or to another room, with a note. You can tell them beforehand that they aren't in trouble. You are just giving them a break from whatever they are upset about, and a  job to do that can give them a sense of self worth. Students usually come back to class more calm. If they need more assistance, you can call a faculty member who knows this student and ask them if they can take a short walk with them. Even if it is during the academic day, try and be flexible. Another way to give them a break could be to let them take their work to a nice comfortable area in class, and let them complete it there. This change of setting may be all they need to calm down.

When emotional students get really upset, they can yell, cry, and even start throwing items. Immediately get assistance in your room if this happens, and make sure the other students are not in the way of any harm. Try and speak calmly to the student and let them tell you what is bothering them. Then get them into a separate part of the room away from the other students to tell you what is going on. Often, they are upset for a valid reason like any other student. They just show it differently. Once they have let it out, practice previously taught coping skills. Sometimes taking deep breathes, counting to 10, or letting out some energy by running in place or jumping can help. For some students, getting down to their level and giving them a hug works. Always collaborate with the school counselor to figure out what works best for the student.

As much as possible, try to speak with the student about behavior, consequences, and social norms. Don’t just tell them how they should act, have a continuous conversation about why they should act that way in society. Go over these rules and social norms before class, before they do group work, and before recess time. Have an open dialogue with the student about what makes them upset, and why they feel they need to act the way they do. This shows them that you care about them, want to help, and that they can achieve success.

Watching an emotional student have a meltdown is one of the most heart breaking things you can witness as a teacher. You want to help them, but sometimes you can’t do anything. Here are some activities you can do with those students to help them achieve success in the regular education classroom before and after an outburst occurs.

Student With Emotional Challenges:

Managing Stress

Students write about stress in a journal and explore different ways to manage it.

Managing Anger

Students analyze what makes them angry and come up with solutions on how to cope with anger.


Students role play situations with conflicts and come up with resolutions in their role play activities.

Dealing with Stress

Students read about dealing with stress and summarize what they read.