Children are often emotional and unpredictable. Sometimes, when children are confronted with new challenges or unfamiliar feelings, they may have difficulty coping with their emotions. Teaching coping skills to your children can go a long way in helping them overcome negative feelings. Use these coping skills when your child is feeling anxious or upset.
5 Coping Skills for Children
It’s normal for young children to feel frustration or anxiety over situations or emotions that are new to them. If your child is having a meltdown or a tantrum, helping them identify their emotions with words is a helpful coping skill. When you help them put a name to their emotion - like sad, angry, anxious, or frustrated - it helps them put their feelings into perspective.
This doesn’t just apply to negative feelings. When your child is laughing or having fun, say things like, “I see you smiling! Are you happy?” Simple statements like this will help your child learn to identify his/her feelings in a variety of scenarios, which will make identifying negative feelings easier when the time comes.
Being a supportive parent is difficult work but it will make a big difference in how your child views his/her own emotions. Children often model the behavior of the adults around them. If you become frustrated when your child is having an emotional outburst, this only reinforces the idea that frustration is the appropriate response to having unpleasant emotions.
Instead, practice patience. Encourage your child to use words to express themselves and be open to what they say. Reinforce positive feelings by saying things like, “I love you,” “I’m here for you,” or, “It’s okay to feel upset.”
Do What They Love
If your child participates in activities that they enjoy, it’s a good idea to encourage them to practice these activities when they need to take a break from feeling frustrated. These can be activities like going outside, playing an instrument, or riding a bike. These positive activities can help your child take a step back and cool off from situations that are upsetting them.
For example, if your child becomes frustrated with a sibling, suggest they take a breather by riding their bike. This teaches them that it’s okay to feel frustrated, take a break, and return to the problem when they are ready.
When your child is upset, offer solutions to the problem. For example, when they are upset that a sibling will not share a toy with them, you can say things like, “Would you like to play a game until your brother/sister is done?” If they are having a hard time seeing the positive side of things, offering solutions can help them see that their feelings are not permanent and that there are ways to cope. Brainstorm with your child, rather than telling him/her what to do. After you’ve brainstormed, let your child choose which option they would like to go with. They will learn to cope with their emotions independently, and, in time, will be able to identify solutions of their own.
Seek Help When Needed
Sometimes your child might need the help of a counselor to work through his/her emotions. This is okay, and it’s important to let your child know that seeking help is encouraged. A counselor can help your child identify difficult emotions and teach them coping skills. During counseling, your counselor might use several techniques, like talk therapy or play therapy, depending on your situation.
If your child is having difficulty coping with his/her emotions, or if they experience anxiety, speaking to a counselor can be helpful for both your child and you, the parent or guardian. Our counselors are experienced in individual therapy, family counseling, and play therapy for children. Learning healthy coping skills can go a long way in improving your child’s behavior. If you are concerned about your child's behavior, make an appointment with one of our counselors.