Quick tips to help kids develop coping skills
- Quick tip 1Ask about their feelings.Ask about their feelings.
When kids get upset, gently ask questions like “How are you feeling right now? Where are you feeling it in your body?” Emotions can feel more manageable when kids describe their feelings.
- Quick tip 2Ask what made them feel this way.Ask what made them feel this way.
Help kids think through what happened right before they started to get upset. Ask, “What do you think caused these feelings?” This can help kids see a different perspective and build self-awareness.
- Quick tip 3Remind kids of tools they already have.Remind kids of tools they already have.
When kids get upset, point out that they already have ways to calm down. That might be reading comic books or listening to music. Suggest they take a break to do one of those things. Over time, kids may turn to these strategies on their own.
- Quick tip 4Brainstorm new calming strategies.Brainstorm new calming strategies.
Help kids come up with a few ideas related to their interests. Younger kids might want to run around outside to calm down. Teens might want to listen to music before tackling difficult homework.
- Quick tip 5Be present.Be present.
Show you care by being fully present. Model active listening by restating what kids just said. Use phrases like “It sounds like…” or “What I heard you say is….” Ask related questions to help kids work through positive next steps.
Kids who struggle with self-control can react in unpredictable or even explosive ways to everyday things. To manage these feelings, they need to use coping strategies. They often need to be taught these calming strategies. And over time, kids learn to turn to them on their own.
One of the most important coping strategies to teach kids is to name their feelings. Strong emotions can be scary for kids and fuel strong reactions. But when kids can talk about how they’re feeling and what’s causing it, their emotions can feel more manageable.
Offer words kids can use to describe their feelings, like mad, sad, frustrated, anxious, worried, or embarrassed. If kids struggle with language, they can use a “How am I feeling?” visual chart to identify emotions.
Keep in mind that your behavior affects how kids cope, too. Kids need to know that you understand what they’re going through. Responding to kids with empathy takes practice. But it can make a big difference in what kids hear and feel, and how willing they are to keep working on things that are hard.