People who learn coping strategies as a child are better equipped to face life head on with confidence and strength. Stress, setbacks, disappointments and defeats are all a normal part of life. Positive coping strategies are any actions that we take which reduce stress in our lives. They are proactive and do not cause harm nor are they detrimental in the long run.
Here are 5 effective coping skills, which you can foster in your children, to deal with some of the more common challenges they face:
It’s easy to forget that kids get anxious and stressed too. It may be linked to everyday things, like how well they are doing at school or making friends. Alternatively, it might be acute stress as a result of parental divorce or someone dying.
3 Anxiety Coping Strategies
- Self-Calming Techniques: Teach them simple ones that they can do themselves, such as deep breathing or imagining a favourite place.
- Keep a Shared Diary: Sometimes it’s easier to write how you feel than explain. Writing about what and how they feel can help a child to better process and understand their own emotions. It’s also a helpful way for you to understand why and what your child is experiencing.
- Simplify Life: Cut down on the number of things that are planned to be done during the week. Instead make more time for playing. Being able to play without instruction is a stress release for many children.
Anger is often used to mask vulnerability. If kids aren’t taught how to release their anger appropriately, they internalise it and will explode in inappropriate ways. This can be physically dangerous and also damage their self-worth. Children who do not know how to deal with their anger are also very likely to have adult tantrums. By limiting aggressive behaviour, you are in a sense establishing a safety container for their feelings. Thereby, they will be able to feel more in control as well as function better as a whole.
3 Strategies for Addressing Kids’ Anger
- Acknowledge their feelings. Do not diminish or dismiss them. This will better allow a child to unpack what they are feeling, without feeling vulnerable or like they need to defend themselves.
- Establish clear expectations on what are appropriate and inappropriate ways of expressing anger. While their feelings need to be validated this does not translate into accepting bad behaviour under any circumstances. For example: Hitting, breaking objects or disrespect.
- Involve your child in outlining consequences for inappropriate behaviour. This will result in them being more likely to respect these rules.
As much as you would like to remove all upsets and let downs for your kids, its not realistic. It’s also important to remember you are their guide and caregiver not their saviour. Thus, you need to prepare your child for setbacks and not minimise or eliminate them.
Learning to Cope with Disappointment
- Without judgement, listen and acknowledge how they are feeling.
- Encourage them to unpack why they are feeling disappointed.
- Share Perspective. With age comes experience and insight, you know that circumstances can change. However, they may need reassurance that whatever’s happening won’t last forever, even if it feels like it.
- Seek solutions. Once you’ve helped them think through the situation, ask them how they think things could be changed in future scenarios. Get them to brainstorm as many different solutions as possible. Avoid discounting any of them, but do guide them towards realistic and implementable solutions which are kind rather than retaliative.
Frustration can erupt with tears, blood-curdling shrieks, flying objects and stomping or result in silent seething. Trying to do something when you can’t and it seems like everyone else can is upsetting. It can also dent self-esteem. Which is easy to forget when, as an adult, you know some things take time to learn how to do. But, for a child the jump from “I’m no good at this” to “I’m no good at all” is often smaller than we think.
5 Wats to Work Through Kids’ Frustration
- Remind them of things they can already do successfully which they couldn’t do not so long ago.
- Discuss how they got to a point where they could do these things (patiently re-trying).
- Talk about things that they are good at. Help them to learn to notice the strengths that they can count on to eventually triumph. Such as guts, determination, endurance, careful observation.
- Encourage them to retry and encourage them while they try again. You might need to help them a few times or just simply be there to show you believe in them.
- Congratulate them when they get something right after they keep trying to do it themselves. Then re enforce their grit by talking about how they were able to get it right because they didn’t give up.
When sad things happen it’s not helpful to tell a child that life is unfair and people are mean. Jumping from a negative to a negative is a prescription for further unhappiness. It also can result in feelings of powerlessness and despair. Therefore, its important that we teach our children to separate themselves and their worth from other’s opinions and the circumstances they find themselves in. By teaching them to move on, instead of feeling bad, we also help prevent them from getting resentful and immobilised. Also remember empathy is different from sympathy. As such don’t let yourself get down when your child feels down. This will add to their burden as no child likes to see or feel like they are making their parents sad.
Most situations have a learning point and many have a silver lining. So, after giving your child space to share how they are feeling and why, ask them some questions. Depending on the situation you might ask: What do you think could help you feel better? What can we learn from what happened? How could we better prevent things from happening like this again? Is there anything I can do to help you?
Be Part of Helping Kids and Parents
Are you passionate about guiding people on their journey through life? You may be well-suited to a career in counselling. The SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology) offers a range of courses in counselling, such as the Bachelor of Psychology degree. Which is accredited by the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) and enables professional registration as a Registered Counsellor. For more information, enquire now.