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Teaching Coping Skills

Finding Moments to Teach Coping Skills to Young Children and Teens

March 16, 2018     By Kristen Galloway, Ph.D.,Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health, and Michelle Woidneck-Kieffe, Ph.D., Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health

Connecting with Kids, Coping Skills for Teens, Parent-Child Relationships, Parenting Skills, Teachable Moments

The following is a Q&A with Boys Town behavioral expert Kristen Galloway, PhD on how parents can go about finding opportunities to teach coping skills to their children.

Q: How can parents find teachable moments during their busy day to teach coping skills to their kids?

A: Probably the best way parents can help is by modeling healthy habits and effective coping themselves. The most effective teachers don't just "talk the talk" but also "walk the walk." Kids observe what their parents do and are often more aware than we may give them credit. Verbalize to young children and teens the coping strategies you use to further highlight what works – e.g., how you stay organized and manage your responsibilities, how you manage your stress and practice self-care, etc. Instead of feeling pressured to solve a problem for your child, engage in conversations about what he or she has tried and how it has or has not worked. These conversations can happen at any time (e.g., in the car, sitting in a waiting room, during and/or between the activities of the day). Let the conversations be natural and informal. You don't have to rearrange your schedule to find a time to formally teach about coping; there are endless teachable moments that naturally occur throughout the day. Your task is to recognize them and take advantage of them! Sometimes the best teachable moments are when children see adults struggle and observe how they respond to a situation. It's helpful for kids to know it is not always easy to be skillful, even for adults. If you are having trouble managing your own stress and/or responsibilities, it may be beneficial to seek help for yourself so you can learn more effective ways to manage things. Sometimes seeking help for yourself can be one of the best ways to help and teach to your child.

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