Distraction is a much better tactic for calming children than conventional reassurance, which often heightens fear, researchers have found. Larry O’Hanlon explains that reassuring kids before a painful medical procedure makes them more fearful. And, it’s not so much what you say, but the way that you say it. The researchers found that “during reassuring behavior, facial expressions conveying fear and talking in a rising tone caused more fear in the children.” When an actor used distracting behaviors rather than reassuring but still wore a fearful expression, “children also rated it as quite worrisome. This was exacerbated when the actor’s voice had a falling tone.”
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