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Essential Coping Skills for Kids

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Life can be hard for kids and adults. Regardless of what comes our way, it is important to teach kids that they can make it through. As a therapist, I spend a lot of time talking about coping skills.

Coping skills are so important to have in our back pocket. Teaching your kids how to cope will teach them resiliency. Being resilient means you have the ability to bounce back after you’ve been under pressure. Picture a beach ball being pushed under the water. When you let go, it bounces right back. Having solid coping skills can give your kids the ‘bounce back’ they need to make it through a hard time.

Here are some of my favorites I share with my clients:

  • Breathe– Take deep belly breaths. Then when you blow it out, try to blow so hard you make something lightweight move across the room.
  • Art– Being creative can help your child feel like they have some control over something and get their brain to focus on things they CAN do rather than what they can’t.
  • Talk it out– When kids are upset, it helps to get the emotions out. Talking it through with a trusted friend or adult can help them feel better.
  • Take a break– Going to a quiet safe place can be a great way to get re-centered. Maybe this is a time to get lost in a good book. When my son was younger he made a comfy spot in his closet and called it his “calm down corner”.
  • Get the negative energy OUT– Some like to scream into a pillow, wrestle, ride a bike, run fast, jump on a trampoline, or do kick boxing. I have suggested clients throw rocks into water and watch the big splash. These things can help release the negative energy in a way that doesn’t end with them being destructive towards someone or something else.
  • Pray– Being still and quiet through prayer can help a child cope with struggles. Here are some ways to teach your child to pray.
  • Play– Whether it’s with toys or just using her imagination, playing can help. For younger kids blowing bubbles and popping them can shift their attention to something fun instead of the issues going on.
  • Music– Slow music or fast dancing music can connect with us on a deeper level. I know this is a way I cope personally! When your child needs to work through a struggle, play some of their favorite tunes.
  • Problem solve– Teaching your kids to problem solve will give them confidence they can bounce back. Here are 4 problem solving steps to teach them.
  • Squeeze the lemons– Have your child pretend they have lemons in their hands and are making tight fists trying to squeeze out the juice. Keep them squeezing for about 15 seconds and release their fingers slowly. They will feel a strange tingling as blood flows back into their hands. This is a helpful way to release strong emotions.
  • Count– Slowly count to 10 or higher. Have them focus on their breathing as they count. This should be an exercise of focus and control.
  • Remember– Sometimes in the midst of struggle we forget all the good that has happened. It is helpful to prompt your child to remember the positive in her life. This is not to squash the feelings that are real in the moment, but it helps them balance the feelings and not get lost in a negative thought spiral.
  • Ask for a hug– Physical touch can be affirming and remind us we are not alone. Snuggles and hugs with your kids can help them cope.
  • Journal- Writing or drawing our feelings can be a great way for kids to process what is swirling around inside. Get your child a special notepad for them to do this.

Remember each child is different, so all of these won’t match her personality. Using these coping skills for kids can give them the bounce back they need after a hard time.

What are some ways you like to cope?

Teri Claassen is a Jesus follower, wife to Dan, mommy to one boy and one girl, a foster mom to kids in need, and a therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling in Tampa, FL.


What helps you feel better when you are upset?

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