As a therapist, there are many tools I’ve used to help people live a life that is healthy and move toward making changes for the better. One tool for healthy coping skills that is used in addiction recovery is the acronym: H.A.L.T. This is used to help people remember their basic needs and to prevent relapse by never getting too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
This strategy is also great to teach kids in order to help them assess their needs and speak up to get their needs met. We can’t read their minds! Helping your child understand this can also help prevent a bad attitude or meltdowns. Here are 4 ways to teach your child to H.A.L.T.:
Anyone can get a little “hangry”—hungry and angry—when they’ve gone too long without eating. Kids can get into meltdown mode, be whiny, and show a bad attitude when they are too hungry. It‘s important to teach your kids the need to have regular meals and snacks that help their body grow. Remind them that even if they’re engrossed in their homework (or more likely their screens!) they need to take a break to eat. The body needs energy to keep going and prevent a crash.
Anger can be consuming. When we get too angry, it can be hard to focus and can often spill out unintentionally onto others around us.
Kids need to learn healthy coping skills to deal with their anger and other struggles they encounter. Breathing, counting to 10, taking a break from the situation, and talking to someone about why they are upset can help them deal with it in a healthy way. Make sure to teach your kids that there is nothing wrong with being angry; it is how we act while angry that can be a problem. If your child faces an obstacle, read here for some ways to teach them to overcome it.
Companionship is a basic human need. We were made to do life with others. This has been true since the creation of man. God said this in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Teaching your kids to speak up when feeling lonely can prevent them from acting out and seeking negative attention. Many times if you are too busy to meet this need for your kids, they may make bad choices in order to get you to pay attention to them. Be sure to balance your time so this doesn’t become a negative cycle in your family.
Teaching your kids to speak up when feeling lonely can prevent them from acting out and seeking negative attention.
Spending quality time with them, having regular times for them to play with others, and good conversations will help meet this need for them to not get too lonely.
We all need sleep. Think about how you feel when you are exhausted. Being tired can have a major impact on a person’s mood—especially a kid. Most kids will go through periods of fighting sleep; but, as a parent, it is important to stay consistent and teach them why they need sleep. Help your child figure out a good sleep routine and environment that will ready them to hit the hay.
So tell me, do you practice the H.A.L.T. principle for yourself? Which one is the hardest for you?
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.