Life is a journey, with ups and downs, joys, and disappointments, which means teaching our children coping skills is one of the most important things we can do as parents. Setbacks, failures, disappointments, and stress are all a part of life and sometimes happen quite often. A child who learns how to confront and cope when negative things happen will build strength, confidence, and develop healthy emotional responses as they mature. A child who can manage adversity is a child who will grow up into a mentally healthy and resilient adult.
The ability to cope like many skills is not one you’re born with but rather is a learned behavior. Learning to cope is a combination of teaching children directly and their observations. As parents, we need to ride the highs and celebrate them and help our children prepare for the lows and get through them, and back on track. Like most things, modeling healthy coping is the ideal way for children to learn how to cope and manage their emotions. One of the best skills parents can teach children is to soothe themselves. Validating their feelings, listening to them, encouraging them to engage with their problems, helping them acknowledge and take responsibility for their contributions in each situation, and letting them vent are among the best and easiest ways to teach your children coping skills.
Some tried and true parenting strategies for teaching your children how to cope include: facing problems head-on and not allowing problems to be ignored or set aside. Encourage children to face their problems big and small. Each problem they solve gives them more confidence and ability to solve the problems that will inevitably come later. Try not to intervene too early. Despite parents’ best intentions, when they step in and “rescue” children, we are teaching them to be rescued rather than teaching them how to rescue themselves. Instead, try to show confidence in your child and support them as they use their ideas and instincts to manage a situation and find solutions. Try not to let your child wallow in negative emotions, acknowledge how they feel and why they are feeling an emotion, and help them try to move beyond things outside of their control. The important lesson here is teaching children to separate themselves from negative events and situations so they can move forward.
These and other tips can help us teach our children how to be resilient and learn to cope with emotions but sometimes parents do not know how to recognize these coping mechanisms in themselves. There are many great resources available to parents who need additional tools to draw from. Seeking professional support from family therapists, psychologists, and professionals is a great way to develop the skills necessary to effectively teach your children. Joining communities of parents in the same boat is another way to find and share tools and resources for parents and children.