Help Your Children Build Coping Skills
Written by WinGate Therapy, in Section Featured Articles
Coping skills are some of the most important life skills kids, teens, and adults can have.
As they grow, young people have the opportunity to learn many things. However, coping skills – the skills that allow people to manage emotions in healthy, positive ways – are fundamental.
But there’s a challenge: Coping skills need to be cultivated and practiced.
Adolescents and teens should be encouraged to think about their emotions in age-appropriate ways. By exploring emotions, they learn the healthiest ways to engage with them.
Since coping skills are strengthened throughout life, many approaches to developing them are effective from an early age. When parents and other trusted adults model these behaviors, they teach young people to make conscious choices about what role different emotions play in their lives.
With these tools, they never have to behave self-destructively, even when emotions are strong. That sets the stage for navigating life’s challenges in a way that honors emotions but gives youths the space to be guided by their aspirations for themselves as well as their feelings.
Let’s look at ways to help children build coping skills:
Put Names to Feelings
It’s very difficult to express or address an emotion you can’t name. Early on, kids should be guided with open-ended questions about what they’re feeling and why. Young kids will often start by saying they “feel bad.” It’s up to the parent to help them go deeper: What happened? Why did that make them feel bad? And, as they mature, what steps could they take to feel better?
There are many times in life when a difficult emotion is sparked by circumstances we can’t control. Grief over a lost loved one, for example, will surely last a long time. By learning to name, express, and describe feelings, young people can process them more easily. Plus, they can recognize which emotions they can act on and which ones they simply have to “sit with.”
Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise
The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise is a technique used by therapists working with patients who experience anxiety and panic attacks. Young adolescents can use it successfully on their own.
The grounding exercise consists of focusing your attention so you can become calmer and avoid a painful emotional spiral. It is as simple as looking around your environment to pay attention to ...
- Five things you can see.
- Four things you can touch.
- Three things you can hear.
- Two things you can smell.
- One thing you can taste.
Kids often find this easier when they say the items out loud.
Deep breathing might sound like a cliché, but it’s one of the most important signals you can send your body. Kids, teens, and adults alike share similar physical responses to stress: Muscles tend to tighten and airflow in the lungs is reduced.
These and other symptoms are all tied up in the natural “fight-or-flight” response. Deep breathing helps youngsters by giving them a way to relax and clear their thoughts whenever they wish, so they’ll have options besides these instinctive ones.
Seek Help When Needed
When it comes to life’s ups and downs, no one should be expected to go it alone. By reaching out for help in your own life and showing children the right ways for them to do so, you make it less likely they will find themselves struggling without the help they need.
WinGate Wilderness Therapy is a place where teens and adolescents can get support to overcome whatever difficulties they face. Our program participants learn coping skills in a safe, healthy, and healing outdoor environment.
For more, contact us.