December 22, 2021

6 Essential Coping Skills for Children

How to teach your child to cope with their feelings 

Key takeaways:

  • Emotions affect your child’s quality of life.
  • Challenging events and emotional triggers can lead to anger and sadness, as well as stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Knowing how to cope with difficult situations can help children face challenges & disappointments.
  • Building resilience is essential for children to become healthy, responsible, successful adults.

Childhood can be difficult sometimes, especially for kids who haven’t learned adequate coping skills. Kids who have limited coping skills due to developmental, emotional, or physical delays can also suffer. As a parent, it’s very important to coach your child on coping skills to deal with their emotions in challenging situations. You must also consider your child’s age and development when engaging in teaching coping skills.

Our professional therapists at Lumiere Children’s Therapy are used to working with parents and children in a variety of ways, including social work and behavioral therapy. to help everyone cope better. To assist your child’s development of coping skills, it is important to remain regulated and calm in moments of difficulty as well as guide your child through the coping skills. This list of tools can be useful for parents and children in accessing self and co-regulation.

Why coping skills matter

Big emotions can be difficult to navigate for adults and can be particularly difficult for children. Emotions can affect your child’s quality of life. Unresolved emotions such as anger or sadness can lead to more serious issues such as stress, anxiety, and even depression.

Depression in teens is reaching new levels. A Pew Research Center analysis of data from 2017 found that the number of teens experiencing depression increased by 59% from 2007-2017. The rate of growth was faster for teen girls than teen boys. One in five girls (around 2.4 million) had “experienced at least one major depressive episode…over the past year in 2017.”

More recently, COVID-19 – and the uncertainty, fear, and social isolation that has followed – has made incidences of anxiety and depression in children and teens even worse. Since the pandemic started, “the percentage of emergency visits for children with mental health emergencies rose 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for children ages 12-17.” Suicide attempts rose by more than 50% among girls 12-17 in early 2021, compared to 2019.

Knowing how to cope with emotions can help your child deal with difficult or new situations. It can also help them face challenges, disappointments, and even failures. The development of resiliency is essential to becoming a well-regulated adult. Here are six important coping skills to teach.

1. Label your emotions

You can teach this skill by letting your child know it’s okay to be mad or sad. It’s important to support them as they discover what they feel. Challenge them to give words to their emotion(s) using “I statements” so they own their feelings without being critical of others. Below are some examples:

  • “I’m mad.”
  • “I’m sad.”
  • “I’m lonely.”
  • “I’m scared.”
  • “I’m bored.”
  • “I’m frustrated.”
  • “I’m happy.”
  • “I’m excited.

Finally, encourage your children to find coping strategies that can calm them down. For younger children, ask them what strategies they’d use to help solve problems. It could be things like playing with a pet, alone time, going to a friend’s house, or talking with someone they trust. Modeling “I statements” and talking about your own coping strategies can be a great way to start the process.

2. Make a plan

When coping with stressful situations or uncomfortable emotions, it can be helpful for children to put down coping strategies on paper, so they can look at them whenever they need a reminder. You can incorporate art into this plan by allowing them to draw out their coping strategies. It’s okay if they can’t think of something right away; they can always add to the plan as different emotions come up. They should also regularly review their coping plans. A coping strategy that works in one scenario may not work for another. It is important to explore how coping plans will shift and change depending on the location and who the child is with.

3. Teach coping techniques

Teach your children to practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and positive self-talk. They can use these techniques whenever a stressful situation occurs, whether they’re at school, sports practice, a friend’s house, or even at home.

It’s easy to teach deep breathing exercises. Just tell your children to breathe in deeply through their nose while counting to 8, and then breathe out slowly while counting to 8 again. If counting is difficult, tell them to imagine blowing a bubble or blowing on hot soup.

Another helpful technique is called “positive self-talk”. Self-talk refers to that little voice that lives inside our heads (your children have it too). That voice can get pretty negative sometimes (as you might know). Instead, train your child’s brain to think positive thoughts, like…

  • “I’m strong.”
  • “I’m smart.”
  • “I can do this/I’ve got this.”
  • “I’ll do well on this test.”
  • “I can make the team.”

The great thing about these coping skills is that they can be used anywhere, even if you aren’t around.

4. Rely on your support system

Good self-care for kids isn’t always about coping on their own; sometimes it’s about turning to others for support. Whether it’s family members, friends, teachers, or coaches, it’s always a good idea to have a “team” of people who care about your child and are ready to help. Asking for help can be hard, so it will be important for them to hear and see those around them asking for help when they need it. Modeling these skills is a vital part of supporting your child as they develop.

5. Try a little comedy

Laughter is one of the best coping strategies. Looking for humor in tough situations may not necessarily ease the pain but it can help reduce stress and anxiety by bringing a new perspective to the situation. Although you might be tempted to tell your child that “everything will be fine,” sometimes this just isn’t enough.

It’s okay if your child doesn’t feel better right away…if they don’t say so, keep checking in with them. Your messages of support will help them through the tough times if they know you are there for them when you need them most.

6. Get outside perspectives

When dealing with difficult emotions or situations, encourage your child to seek outside perspectives. They can ask questions like…

  • “What would (____) do?”
  • “What should I try differently next time?”

Ask your child if they think their coping plan is realistic. Finally, challenge them to look at things from a positive perspective even when things seem impossible.

Learn how to cope with life’s curveballs 

Everyday social interactions and communication can lead to stress and anxiety. Helping your child cope with these emotions is essential for them to become independent, thriving adults.

Using social work and behavior therapy, we can help your child improve his/her emotional health and expression, problem-solving, and communication skills.

Lumiere Children’s Therapy also provides other comprehensive therapies so children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones.

Our services include:

  • ABA Therapy
  • Augmentative Alternative Communication
  • Developmental Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Speech Therapy
  • Early intervention
  • Teletherapy
  • Social work

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians can support your child through various challenges.

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