Day 4: Building Resilience in Children; Coping
Being young isn’t easy and is accompanied by a number of stressors and significant life stages. Learning to navigate through the difficulties and establish healthy coping mechanisms, is one of the most important skills to learn at a young age.
What is positive coping?
Positive coping strategies increase long-term resilience and wellbeing. In contrast, negative coping strategies usually only produce a helpful distraction in the short term. For example, using drugs and alcohol may provide temporary relief from difficult emotions, but reliance on this strategy can lead to substance dependency and abuse. This is why a focus on positive coping skills is crucial in maintaining long-term wellbeing or resilience.
Without healthy coping skills, kids are likely to act out, essentially sending a message that says, “I feel out of control so I’m going to act out of control.” Kids who don’t know how to deal with their feelings are also more likely to turn to unhealthy coping strategies as they grow older. Coping mechanisms are broken down into two primary categories; Emotion and Problem focused.
Emotion-focused coping skills are the skills that help kids deal with their feelings better so they feel less stressed. These skills are necessary for situations when kids can’t change the situation such as dealing with the loss of a pet or not making the lacrosse team. These skills can also help kids learn how to work through stressful situations better so they can persevere.
Problem-focused coping skills involve taking action to change the situation.
These skills might involve ending a friendship that’s unhealthy or telling you about a bully at school who has been picking on them. Having problem focused coping skills can be helpful when a child has some control over the situation and it's important to ensure that your child has both types of coping skills.
I'm sure they'll think you're strange when you tell them to do this but it truly is helpful. A few slow, deep breaths can help kids relax their minds and their bodies. There are also some great apps you can download and use.
Exercise can be a great way for kids to work through their stress by exerting their excess energy when they’re nervous and to boost their mood when they’re down. Strength building exercises (like lifting weights) and aerobic exercise (like running) can be excellent ways to help kids regulate their emotions.
Art work can be an excellent coping mechanism. Whether your child enjoys painting with water colors, canvas painting, coloring in a coloring book, doodling, sculpting with clay, or creating a collage.
Reading books can serve as a great temporary distraction. When your child is done reading, she might feel better equipped to tackle a problem because she’s feeling calm and rejuvenated.
Playing a Game
If your child can’t stop thinking about something negative that occurred at school or something in the near future, do something to get enable the negative thoughts to slip away for a a little bit.
Whether it's playing a board game, throwing a football outside, doing something to "take their mind off things," can help channel the energy in their brain. Afterwards, they're usually able to sit down and discuss the situation with a clear mind.
Yoga provides many benefits to the mind and the body. Whether you enroll in a yoga class or you do yoga videos together as a family in your living room, teaching your child about yoga could be a lifelong skill.
Play Music and Dance
I don't know about you but blasting some music and dancing can always put my kids and I in great moods. For me...it's the release of endorphins...for them...it's probably watching me make a fool out of myself. lol. But let me tell you...it works!! :)
Watch a Funny Video
Laughing is a good way to take a mental break from problems. Watching a funny animal video, a hilarious cartoon, or something you captured on video could be another great coping mechanism.
Positive Self-Talk & Affirmations
If your child is struggling through a tough time, write words of encouragement on post it notes or print positive quotes and tape them to their bathroom mirror. We do this in our house and it's the first thing they see in the morning and the last thing they see before going to bed. As they grow through whatever is troubling them, switch out the affirmations to what benefits them at that time. This is something they can do all throughout life, even as adults.
Problem Focused Coping Skill Examples:
Ask for Help
When your child is struggling with something, let them know it's okay to ask for help. Kids who know that it's okay to ask for help will feel empowered. They’ll know that they don’t need to know everything on their own and that it’s okay to ask for support.
Create a List of Pros and Cons
If your child is struggling to make a decision, have them write out a list of pros and cons. Write down possible positive and negatives about each option and then help review the list. Seeing things on paper usually helps enable children to make a better-informed decision.
The ultimate goal should be for your children to be able to use coping skills on their own so they can deal with situations, in a healthy manner, when you’re not around. When building resilience in your children, this is a vital element. Keep up the good work, Mama...and have fun dancing and making memories with your little ones.