Coping skills are activities anyone can do to help manage difficult thoughts and feelings or challenging situations. It’s important for everyone to know and use coping skills. Not all coping skills work in every situation, so it’s good to have a variety to help manage different challenges.
When I think about coping skills, I tend to divide them into 5 categories - Relaxation, Movement, Distraction, Processing and Sensory coping skills. In this post, I'm focusing on Relaxation Coping Skills, those skills designed to help your child calm down, settle and chill out.
Keep in mind that not all coping skills will work for all people. For example, yoga does not work for my son, but my daughter loves it. Even if you think your child won't benefit from a particular coping strategy, try it first to see if it will work before crossing it off the list.
These coping skills can be used as a transition, maybe at the beginning of the day, after lunch/recess, or as an end of the day or end of the week activity. These can also be used when a child is starting to get anxious or worried or stressed to help them calm down and relax.
I once worked with a child who would pick a random number like 76 and count to it to help him calm down. Have your child pick a number and count to it.
Using your senses to help kids calm down and relax. Kids look for 5 things they see, 4 things they feel, 3 things they hear, 2 things they smell, and 1 thing they taste
A child's imagination is a powerful tool to use to help them take a mini vacation to their favorite place, no matter where they are
Use a Calming Jar
This is an activity that can be done with one child in a one on one setting, in a small group, or even in a large class setting. Kids shake up their jars and watch the glitter settle to the ground. As the glitter settles, encourage them to settle their mind too. Learn more about the different ways to make calming jars here.
You might want to try one of these before school, before sitting down to start homework or before bed. Here are a few coping skills that can be helpful when you want your child to calm their energy or get settled to do work.
It doesn’t have to be an hour long class, just try a few yoga poses and see how it feels. GoNoodle has some great resources for kids - they have videos specifically designed to help kids take deep breaths and relax.
Take a shower/bath
Some kids absolutely love to relax by taking a bath. Add bubbles, even play some soothing music or listen to an audiobook.
Take a mindful walk
Taking a walk and getting out in nature is a great way for kids to calm down. Take a few minutes of the walk and make it mindful - have them use their senses and focus on what they notice - what do they smell? what do they notice with their eyes? what do they hear? It's a great way to introduce mindfulness to kids!
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Here is a script that I’ve used with kids that goes through their entire body. You can read it calmly and slowly and encourage your child to follow the directions to relax each of the parts of their body. I've also made a Progressive Muscle Relaxation you can play on YouTube:
There are many different ways to talk with kids about deep breathing. A simple one is to tell kids to breathe in like they are smelling a flower and breathe out like they are blowing out birthday candles.
The Coping Cue Cards Relaxation Deck!