Two Steps to Help Your Kid Develop Coping Skills
In my last article I discussed the idea of whether or not you can teach coping skills to your kids, in this article we’ll begin talking about how to teach these skills to your kids.
The first step to help your kids develop good coping skills is successful communication.
By validating your children and helping them to talk about their feelings, you help them understand how they feel. Very young kids need to learn correct (and accurate) labels for their feelings. As they get older, they will learn that how they feel may have an effect on others. They’ll also find out how the way they act upon their feelings influences so many others.
Kids need to learn that their feelings are normal and okay.
They need to know that how they act upon their feelings is a choice. The better choices they make, the better the outcomes. Understanding how to manage their feelings is the foundation for healthy coping skills.
As kids understand their feelings and are able to communicate about those feelings, the second step – action – emerges. Children need to learn about making healthy choices about other people’s feelings, and their own. Sometimes, the choices aren’t obvious, and as parents, it’s your responsibility to help your kids understand their alternatives. Often times, the first and second steps don’t follow each other in a clear and direct way. As a matter of fact, almost always, kids learn how to understand their feelings when a parent helps them respond to such feelings.
Kids may act out as they try to cope…
Kids sometimes act out when they are overwhelmed by feelings they don’t understand, or when they don’t know how to respond to feelings such as anger, guilt, frustration, or fear. For example, when seven-year-old Sean’s parents were going through a divorce, Sean felt guilt , anger, confusion, fear, and frustration. He began to act out, got into trouble at school, and became a bit defiant at home. Sean found it beneficial to have his parents, with the aid of a family therapist, help him to understand how he was feeling about their divorce.
With Sean, the most important emotions to address were his feelings of confusion and anger. His parents helped him understand that what he felt was normal, and they validated his anger. Most importantly, his parents emphasized that the divorce was not Sean’s fault. Kids often feel guilty about their parent’s divorce; they may even feel they are the cause of the divorce. This point surprises many adults because it seems illogical to them that their kids would take responsibility for something that is clearly not the kids’ fault. In addition, feelings of fear are common when the child is in a state of significant change and transition as a result of divorce. Helping kids understand their fear and teaching them to face it is one thing, but the most important thing is to assure your kids that they are not alone in facing their fears. Creating a supportive and stable environment is essential in helping kids of divorce to learn how to cope with fear. I am very glad that Sean’s parent sought professional help to support and guide him through their divorce
I’ll continue the discussion in my next article by talking about how parents can model healthy coping skills in order to help their kids develop these important skills.
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 her at 425-772-6698.