Inside: 10 amazing coping skills for kids to help them manage their emotions in a healthy way.
It was already starting out to be a crappy morning.
My daughter was crabby from the second she woke up and was as slow as a snail getting ready for school. Every time I asked her to do something, she would whine and complain she couldn’t do it.
I’m already not a morning person so her attitude first thing in the morning had me on edge, ready to stab forks in my ears.
Finally after asking her at least three times to put her clothes on for school, (each time with her complaining about a piece of clothing) she stopped whining and got quiet.
I heard her counting and in between numbers she was taking deep breaths. I listened as she counted to 30 while taking big breaths and when she was done, I asked her what she was doing. She said she was trying to calm down.
My irritation melted away immediately, and I told her I was really proud of her for using that coping technique and calming herself down enough to put her clothes on by herself.
After all the times we’ve talked about different ways to handle big feelings and practicing those techniques, I was so excited and happy that she figured out exactly what she needed to do in that moment, to feel better!
Kids don’t automatically know how to calm themselves down when they’re upset.
As an adult you already know how to calm yourself down, (sometimes without even thinking about it). Because of that, oftentimes we expect our little kids to be able to do the same thing.
Or you might experience frustration when you tell them to stop crying, whining, yelling, etc., or to calm down and they don’t do it.
Related: How To Handle Toddler Tantrums
Your kids need to be taught what to do with their big emotions, and using this list of coping skills for kids will help them learn. You can also use these coping skill cards for kids to help them practice!
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10 coping skills for kids
1. Do something physical
Your child’s energy and emotions are going to come out one way or another. Running, jumping, yoga, or other ways of moving around are positive ways of releasing pent up emotions. It also helps your child get into a relaxed state once they’ve exerted that energy.
2. Read a book
Reading can help your kid focus on something else besides whatever is irritating them. If your child is old enough to read independently, they can go in their room to read. If your child is too little to read alone, you can read children’s books about emotions, which can help teach them what to do with their big emotions.
3. Listen to music
Music is cathartic for so many people, and kids are no different! If your kids are old enough, let them choose their own music. If your kids are little, you can ask them if they want to listen to their favorite song, slow music, or fast music to help them choose what they want to listen to.
4. Draw a picture
Your kid can focus their feelings into drawing a picture. They may want to draw out how they’re feeling or maybe they’ll want to draw a happy memory that distracts from their current irritation.
5. Talk it out
Ask your child if they want to talk about they’re feeling. Again, when your kids are little they don’t automatically know HOW to talk about what they’re feeling and they may not even know WHAT they’re feeling. Talking to them helps them learn how to identify their emotions, helps them identify that talking to someone is a good coping skill, and that it’s normal and ok to have big feelings.
6. Hug it out
Sometimes a good hug is all it takes to help your kid calm down through the power of connection.
7. Take deep breaths
Some kids are resistant to the idea of taking deep breaths, (mine used to be) so instead you can make a game out of it. You can tell them to try to blow the house down or blow you over, (the idea being to have them take big breaths in and blow it all out). This coping skill helps distract, (if you’re making it a game) it can physically make them feel better, and gives them time to think before they respond.
8. Use a calm down jar
You can make or buy these jars. They help your child focus on what’s happening inside the jar, giving them time away from what’s bothering them, and time to cool down.
9. Use a squeeze ball
When your child feels angry, they can try squeezing a squishy ball as hard as they can, and then completely loosening their grip. They can do this as many times as they need to. This technique can help release your child’s anger in a healthy way. Instead of hitting, kicking, throwing, or something along those lines, they can get all that pent up energy and anger and focus it on the ball. Then when they release their grip it helps them to completely relax.
10. Take some time alone
A little alone time never hurt anybody, especially when you’re upset! Your kid can take time away from whatever is bothering them allowing them to identify what made them upset, and taking control of their reaction and emotions. Taking time away alone, isn’t a punishment and shouldn’t be treated as such. Instead help them identify a spot they can go when they want to be alone and encourage them to use that space whenever they need to.
When you’re in the thick of the toddler and little kid phase, it feels like Groundhogs Day when your kids are constantly having emotional outbursts because they haven’t learned how to deal with their feelings yet. And dealing with those constant emotional outbursts is really hard on you!
But eventually that day will come when your kids know how to identify what’s upsetting them, and how to make themselves feel better.
You can grab your own set of coping skill cards for kids so you can help your child learn to manage their emotions!
These coping skills for kids take practice, and it’s not something they’ll learn overnight. But the end result is your child learning a critical skill that’ll help them all through their lives!