Developing Coping Skills: 5 Ways to Help Kids Who Struggle With Self-Control
The Understood Team
At a Glance
When kids struggle with self-control, they may have trouble coping with everyday challenges.
You can help your child learn healthy coping strategies, like giving names to feelings.
Over time, your child may turn to these coping strategies on her own.
Kids with learning and thinking differences can
struggle with self-control for various reasons. And when faced with everyday challenges, they might react in unpredictable or even explosive ways. That’s why it’s important to help them develop coping strategies.
You can help your child feel more in control of her emotions and reactions. Here are five ways to help her develop coping skills.
1. Give words to feelings.
Strong emotions can be scary for kids. And they can fuel strong reactions. But when children are able to talk about how they’re feeling and what may be causing it, their emotions can feel more manageable. When she’s upset, gently ask your child:
“How are you feeling right now?” Offer her the words to use, like mad, sad, frustrated, anxious, worried or embarrassed.
“Where are you feeling it in your body?” She may say her belly feels tight, her heart is racing or her head feels hot.
“What do you think caused it?” Help her think through what happened right before she started to get upset. You might be able to help her see a different perspective or better understand what occurred.
If your child struggles with language, she may find it difficult to talk about feelings. You can use a “How am I feeling?” visual chart to help her identify her emotions.
When your child feels emotional, give her your full attention. If she sees that you’re distracted, she may feel even more out of control. What does being present look like?
Focus on her. Open bills and check phone messages later.
Model active listening. After she’s done speaking, restate what she’s just said in her own words, not yours. You might say: “It sounds like you felt Mr. Knight was being disrespectful.” This helps her feel heard and understood.
Ask related questions. Help her work through positive next steps. “Is there anything you think you could tell him tomorrow?”