Your children are unique, and finding the right coping skills to help them deal with life’s challenges is something that doesn’t happen right away. Help your child realize that even though big feelings happen, there are solutions to make them easier to endure.
We need to realize that our role as a parent is to just be there for support. We can’t fix a lot of our kids’ problems even though we want to. Life can suck even if you’re only 8 years old and can’t have your sushi or don’t get that play station 5 you begged your mom for at the store.
But what we can do is reassure our children with hugs, words, and by listening to them so they know that we’re always going to be there, especially when life sucks. Being your child’s support system is key to helping them realize they don’t have to deal with all these emotions alone.
1. Talking it out
Encourage your child to speak up if they’re experiencing a tough time, by creating a safe space where their feelings won’t be judged. If what they’re going through doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, keep in mind that it’s very real for them, so be supportive and not dismissive.
Just being able to verbalize, “I’m scared,” or “I’m sad,” can help unpack their emotions . When he’s struggling with a tough emotion, ask him to describe how he is feeling.
It’s also important not to force your child to speak to you if they really don’t want to. Instead, let them know that you’re here to help, but if they’re not comfortable speaking to you (which is okay and shouldn’t be taken personally), encourage them to speak to someone else they trust, such as a friend or another family member.
2. Taking a break
Taking an active time-out from something that is causing distress is a great way to refocus thoughts and energy. If your child is having difficulty coping, let them know that taking it easy from time to time isn’t being lazy; it’s actually very healthy, especially if they’ve been experiencing a hard time.
3. Deep breathing
When you and calm and relaxed, your body is in “rest and digest” mode. You breathe normally, your heart rate is lower and your muscles are relaxed. However, when stress or anxiety or anger occurs, your body automatically switches into “flight, fight or freeze” mode. Your muscles tense up, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes more shallow.
Taking deep breaths, instead of shallow breaths, is one way to tell your body to get back to resting and digesting. That’s why deep breathing is important!
4. Doing something they love
When Miss Flower went to boarding school, she struggled with adjusting. This was definitely expected but I had to quickly find ways to help her develop coping skills. On daily basis I would encourage her to go for that choir audition, to join the debate team or do some knitting. This is were her passion lies. These extra murals made a huge difference and helped her lower stress and put her in a positive mindset.
Some examples might be:
- taking a walk
- listening to music
- seeing friends.
The ultimate goal should be for your child to be able to use coping skills on her own so she can deal with her discomfort in a healthy way when you’re not there to tell her what to do.
5. Seek help when needed.
When you rely on the help of others, you show your child that there are many components to a healthy coping strategy. For example:
- If your child struggles in math, a tutor can teach new strategies. A couple of years ago Miss P averaged 50 for Maths, regardless of how hard she tried she’d always end up at 50. For the whole of last year I enrolled her for Master Maths which increased her confidence and changed the way she looked at Maths. Now at boarding school she still uses their strategies and averages 80.
- If your child feels anxious or depressed, schedule an appointment with a counselor. Teach your child that it’s OK to reach out for help. Vulnerability is a great trade to have.