By Amy Steele, Courier & Press, Nov. 17, 2015 –
There are so many things to teach our kids; sometimes it can be overwhelming. One sure thing in life is that it won’t always be easy. So one of the best things to teach them is how to cope when things are hard or don’t go their way. We won’t always be there to fix things for them. It is important that they learn healthy ways to cope when life gets hard.
Labeling feelings such as sad, mad, happy, scared, worried, etc. and talking to someone about those feelings is a very valuable way of coping. This skill is useful when children are having trouble with appropriate ways to handle their anger, worry, fear, anxiety or sadness.
If a child can state how they feel and have a loving, trusted adult validate and accept that feeling — even by just saying, “You feel sad” — it goes a long way in helping a child cope in a healthy manner.
Another important coping skill is teaching children appropriate ways to let their feelings out. We see daily in our society that people do not know healthy ways to release anger. Instead they turn to violence, retaliation or even taking it out on themselves or innocent people.
Others choose to “stuff” or repress their feelings, which is not a healthy way to deal with feelings either. Talking writing and drawing about feelings; punching a pillow and exercising are just a few healthy ways to get emotions out.
Mindfulness skills (intentionally living with awareness in the present moment) and relaxation skills (ways to calm down when worked up over feelings such as anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, hyperactivity or worry) are great coping skills.
In mindfulness the child only needs to experience right now, not what they wish was different about the past or their excitement, worries or fears about the future. This can be freeing for a stressed mind and body.
Through relaxation techniques children can focus on their breathing and slow it down by blowing bubbles, closing their eyes and imagining with all 5 senses a place where they feel happy, safe, carefree and relaxed. There are apps online that can guide children and adults through peaceful music or guided talks to calm their mind, quiet their thoughts, and slow their breath.
These techniques can be excellent bedtime routines or can be used anytime. With practice, children and adults alike can call on these peaceful feelings during the day when they feel overwhelmed.
Positive affirmations are statements children say over and over to keep their mind on track, motivated and moving in the right direction. Children can repeat things like, “I can do this,” “I am capable,” “This isn’t so bad,” “I am strong enough,” “I am good enough” or “I have gotten through worse.” Dory’s well known mantra from the Finding Nemo movie, “Just keep swimming,” is also a good one. Thinking positively is a great way to cope.
Coping skills are so important in the daily challenge of growing up. When practiced and applied often they can be life changing. If they are already a part of a child’s automatic skill set when real hardship and difficult challenges occur, they can be lifesaving!