How Can I Teach My Kid to Cope With Stress?

As kids grow into adulthood, we can teach them ways to cope with the stress of everyday life and build resiliency. Kids can struggle to control their emotions, which might cause them to be overreactive during situations that have solutions. Some events might seem like “the end of the world” to our kids. As adults, we know that many of these situations are manageable and not “the end of the world.”

Depending upon the situation, different coping skills might be necessary to help kids. Some coping skills can be integrated into our daily lives to keep stress levels relatively low. When our overall stress levels are relatively low, our kids will be much less reactive to unexpected stressful events. Other coping skills can be used during “emergencies” or to better handle stressful situations occurring suddenly. 

Self-Care: Keeping Ourselves Regulated

Self-care activities describe an array of actions that we can regularly take to remain emotionally regulated. Kids can learn some of these activities as part of their daily routines or as family events. Self-care activities can include things like:

  • Taking a long bath
  • Walking outdoors
  • Cooking a healthy meal
  • Meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Exercising
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Art activities

The purpose of self-care activities is to soothe ourselves. What do kids like to do to focus on themselves and their “whole-self” health? Kids might not look at these activities in this manner. However, we can often forget that these seemingly mundane activities can significantly impact our emotional states. When kids face challenges or a crisis, they may stop doing these activities and find maladaptive means of regulating their emotions, like self-harm or addiction.

As parents, we can encourage our kids to engage in these self-care activities. Often, the example that we set will help our kids the most. Are we taking time for ourselves to self-soothe? Do we take a break from our phones, work, or computers to engage in a fulfilling activity? As Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey states many times during coaching calls and other podcasts, we need to take care of ourselves first, our adult relationships second, and best provide support for our kids.

Scheduling Self-Care and the Value of Routine

We schedule routines for each family member to “do their own thing.” This could be time to unplug from media, the internet, work, or other distractions. We can also share some of our self-care activities with others, like teaching our kids yoga or going for walks after dinner. Routines can also help keep kids regulated, as they can know what to expect and what they can rely on. Scheduling family game nights or having family dinners are great ways to begin integrating “whole-family” caring activities that focus on each member as part of a meaningful whole.

When the Unexpected Occurs

When we use self-care routines to keep our overall stress levels low, we will encounter the unexpected. Events like a death in the family, injuries, illness, break-ups, failing a class, or other unforeseeable circumstances can cause a great deal of stress. Depending upon the situation, we might encourage our kids to share what they are feeling. We can open up about how we deal with stressors. We can share similar events from our past and talk about how we have overcome these stressors. Other events, like conflicts within the family or with others, can also heighten our stress. 

Kids can learn ways of coping in the moment to return to a “balanced” emotional state. When dealing with conflict, especially with our kids, we might need to set the example of separating ourselves to calm down. We can say things like, “I am upset and need time to think right now.” When our kids are yelling or having a tantrum, we can remind them that we will not speak to someone who is yelling or using disrespectful language. These boundaries help to set an example for our kids. If we get into “screaming matches,” we unintentionally teach our kids to resolve conflicts by “topping” one another’s emotional reactions.

Nobody Is Perfect

We cannot expect ourselves to set the example 100% of the time. If we try to be perfect, we will set ourselves up for failure. When kids are engaging in problematic behaviors, they might shock, upset, or disappoint us. We are only human and might display our emotions or yell back when conflicting with our kids. However, this is another opportunity to set an example. We can apologize and agree to try better the next time. We can remind our kids that we are here for them by apologizing for emotional reactions, discussing what we did to calm ourselves, and setting consequences for behaviors.

We can use role modeling of coping skills for our kids to teach them how to deal with stress. If we are not dealing with stress in healthy ways, our kids might get mixed signals when we try to encourage them to do the same. Remember to prioritize self-care activities. These activities can help keep stress levels low, which will help us deal with unexpected events in a much more level-headed manner. We can schedule routines to help our kids stay emotionally regulated and encourage them to take time for themselves. When unexpected events or conflicts arise, we can share our past experiences with our kids to talk about times we dealt with similar issues. If we have conflicts at home, we can continue to role model by being the “well-regulated adult” in the conversation. If your child struggles with maladaptive coping skills, like addiction, self-harm, isolating, running away, or other issues, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here for you. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to make your family’s fire burn brightest.

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