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Teach Kids Coping Skills

 Teach Kids Coping Skills by Modeling Correct Behaviors

“I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter what we wanted. What matters is what we chose to do with the things we had.”  – Mira Grant, Deadline

KidsCopingWithStress-ShirinSherkatIn my previous article I discussed Two Steps to Help Your Kid Develop Coping Skills, in this article we’ll discuss how parents can model healthy coping skills for their kids to follow.

Some of those coping skills are:

  • Labeling feelings and acknowledging them
  • Validating feelings and normalizing them
  • Making good choices for healthy responses and offering some choices to the kids

Let me demonstrate what I mean, using the example of running late in driving the kids to a doctor’s appointment. As you drive, already feeling frantic, the kids begin bickering and arguing, and you realize that you’d forgotten to bring some important paperwork for the appointment. You now feel even more frustrated and upset. Here’s something you could say and do in order to model good coping skills: “Kids, we’re running late, and we all feel a bit frustrated. It’s okay; I understand, so instead of bickering and yelling at each other, I am asking you to stop. I’m going to play some music, and you have a choice to take a few deep breaths and listen to the music with me or you can choose to read your book and relax. Those are your only choices right now.” By setting some limits about what the kids’ choices are, you contain the situation in the car so you can drive safely to your destination.

6 Healthy coping responses

Some possible choices for healthy responses may include teaching your kids some of the following (sometimes in combination with each other):

  • Letting it out – Once in a while, allow them freely to vent toward you (the parent) without feeling judged. The key here is to provide the appropriate space and time for the kids to do so.
  • KidsShowFeelings-ShirinSherkatBeginning to process feelings – Writing, or (if children are too young to write) drawing their feelings.
  • Taking some time – Give them some time to themselves if they wish to be left alone, and provide the safety and sanctuary of a peaceful space where others will respect their personal time. Sometimes, children just need the chance to calm down on their own, without adult intervention. Adults need to acknowledge and respect this need.
  • Being physically active – Have them participate in an activity that allows them to burn some energy or get some exercise. Working out is not just a healthy way to cope for adults; children also benefit from the health benefits of good exercise. Make the experience an opportunity to model a very effective coping skill. For example, go for a walk together.
  • Processing feelings further – Let your kids’ creative juices flow by involving them in some art or crafts with you and  see what develops. Parents are often impressed and surprised by how well kids face some of their fears through creative art work and crafts, where they may make a representation of what they fear and then take control of it. This can be a very healthy process.

In my next article we’ll discuss more ideas on how parents can model effective coping skill as we talk about such topics as appropriate aggression and how to assert yourself verbally.

This is an excerpt from my book: “Create Happy Kids”

Dr. Sherkat is a parent strategist who is available to do Parent Education Workshops, either Private or PTA Sponsored Classes.

Contact me at 425-772-6698.