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Helping Your Child Cope

We all feel the feels from time to time. And that includes our kids. When you sense the warning signs, it’s time to break out the coping skills. This is a little different from self-care but can look very similar; the difference is that you’re using them for a distraction or to feel better because you’re not feeling so great. Self-care options are supposed to happen whether you feel great or horrible. Coping skills help you get though the horrible times.

It doesn't have to be a disaster. It doesn't have to be something traumatic. It can be a bad day or just a bad moment. It's good to know how to self regulate your emotions so you can feel better quicker. Starting at a young age, we can help our kids become successful self-emotion managers.

For most of today’s youth, their smartphone is their coping skill. Most of the time. Parents don’t like to hear this, especially when they punish by taking that technology away, but it’s true.

Coping skills are anything used to relax, soothe, or distract from bad thoughts or emotions.

However, for adolescents, their phone has become their only coping skill that is actually causing many more problems.

I encourage all parents to sit with their child and help make a list of coping skills. Do not choose to do this in a moment of conflict or crisis. Rather, pick a calm environment and time to simply ask the question, What do you do to make yourself feel better when you’re feeling upset or sad? See how they respond. I encourage writing the list out.

The child should be in control of this part; you’re just there as support. However, if they truly are stumped, it’s okay to brainstorm with them. Some popular coping skills in our house are these:

· Alone time

· Playing outside

· Reading a book

· Helping others

· Punching a pillow

· Crying and hugging Mom

· Snuggling and talking

· Taking a bath

· Jumping on the trampoline

· Calling a friend

· Singing a song

· Listening to favorite music

· Coloring or drawing

· Playing an instrument

· Riding a bike

The good thing about this list is that it’s actually some good options for adults as well. Notice that many of these options can end up on your child’s self-care list or may look very similar. My son uses the same list for both. That’s okay, as long as self-care and coping are distinguished for separate needs. Self-care builds preparation against emotional hardships and provides balance, whereas coping skills help you feel better during the emotional hardship.

When it comes down to it, we’ve got to help our kids build these skills and tools so when life gets tough, which it will, and they experience some real stress, which they will, they already know what works for them. If they wait until they’re 12 or 13 to experience a sucky life and then try to find something that helps, it’s going to be harder. It’s never too late; it’s just easier if it’s encouraged and practiced starting at a young age.
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