A few months ago I wrote a four part series about coping skills kids (and adults) can use to help them in different situations. I divided the coping skills into 4 categories: Calming, Physical, Distracting and Processing. Here is a brief summary of each category:
These are activities meant to slow down and relax. These can be helpful to do when you want your child to get settled to do work or before school. It can also be helpful before bedtime.
These activities are meant to to help deal with strong feelings or help get out extra energy. My son has a lot of big feelings, and we use physical coping skills regularly to help him manage his feelings and keep his body calmer.
Sometimes when your child is dealing with difficult feelings, the best thing you can do is find an activity they enjoy to distract them. It’s a great way to cope, especially when there are things that are out of their control or if you need to get their mind off a tough situation.
There are going to be times when kids need to work through challenging experiences and tough feelings. These are some ways for kids to actually start processing their thoughts, behaviors and emotions:
Not every coping skill will work everywhere, every time, for every situation. For instance, laying down and closing your eyes is a great coping skill to use at home when you may be feeling overwhelmed, but it’s not a great choice when you're in the middle of reading class at school.
In order to get an accurate list of coping skills, you’ve got to start figuring out what works and what doesn’t for your child. It also makes sense to figure out new things they haven’t tried yet, to increase their list of coping skills. I created a checklist several years ago that I’ve used in school settings, in individual therapy and in small group settings, and I’ve received great feedback on it. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s an excellent way to get started and begin exploring ways for your child to manage their feelings. I’ve made the checklist available for download here.
Here’s how to use it:
You can either choose to go through the checklist with your child or have them do it independently. For older kids, I usually have them do it independently and then go through it together with them after they are done. Have them:
check off the ones that work for them
cross off the ones that don’t
circle the ones they’d like to try.
Note: For some kids, looking at the list can be overwhelming. If that’s the case, break it down into chunks, covering up part of the paper and only going through a few at a time. I’ve even done this over a few sessions with clients.
Sometimes kids will cross off a ton without actually knowing what they mean or without trying them. Make sure to check in with them about the ones they cross off. For instance, not a ton of kids have ever tried progressive muscle relaxation, but most of the clients and kids I’ve tried it with report that it is, in fact, calming and relaxing.
Once it’s all filled out, you can make a list of their current coping skills. You can also make a list of ones they want to try. Take time to try out these different coping skills.
Don’t try them all at once, but instead identify one coping skill to try over the next couple of weeks and see how it goes. Does it help? Do they enjoy it? Or does it make things worse? It’s a little bit of trial and error to see what will work and what won’t. Everyone’s coping skills list looks a little bit different.
Looking for more ideas and products to teach your child coping skills?
Take a look at our sister site, Coping Skills for Kids!