I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “coping skills.” You might even have heard it in reference to your child’s behaviors: “She just needs some coping skills.”
A coping skill is an action, something your child does to feel better in the moment.
Especially when your child can’t change or get rid of whatever’s causing her stress, she can only cope with it.
For your anxious child, she might breathe deeply to the count of 100. Or she could do muscle relaxation exercises or visualize herself in a calm place.
If your child is in a down mood, she might try thinking positive thoughts, reach out to a friend, or journal her feelings. She could remind herself to put on her favorite songs to boost her mood.
Coping skills are necessary and should be a part of your child’s life. She should know in the moment how to address anxiety or sadness, so that she can pull herself together and continue with her day.
While coping skills are GREAT, there’s so much more your child needs.
What if your child could more than just cope with the stress in her life, but actually have the ability to decrease the amount of stress in her life?
It’s possible, and it’s called life skills.
What’s a life skill?
It’s not enough for your child to address what’s going on in the moment.
Your child needs to be able to change the pattern of problematic thinking that results in continued stress, anxiety, and depression.
It’s essential that the origin of the problem gets addressed. That way her bouts of anxiety and depression stop before they begin, or are at least substantially lessen in intensity.
Life skills get to the root of the problem.
Take depression for example:
Depression is often caused by perfectionist thinking. You might hear your child say she’s not feeling good enough. When she addresses self-blame and the unrealistic expectations that she has for herself, she can feel better, and thus function better.
How amazing would it be if your child could change the way she thinks so she can alleviate her down moods and tearful episodes?!
In regard to anxiety:
Anxiety, stress, and persistent worry are often attributed to a chronic outlook in life filled with worst case scenario thinking, and self-doubt about the capacity to handle these stressors. Changing the lens by which your child views upcoming challenges can decrease the level of panic and acting out.
Life skills are not about eliminating challenging experiences in your child’s life. Life is filled with challenges she will have to deal with.
But when your child can change how she thinks and responds to the stresses in her life, she will be able to reduce the frequency of emotionally overwhelming episodes. And when these episodes do occur, life skills will more effectively help those times when she needs to use coping skills.
Bottom line: If we can help your child change the way she views her world, we can change her life in an infinitely better way.
If you have a child in your life who’s doing her best to just cope, but you feel she needs more support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional.
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.