40 coping skills for when kids get stressed

Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen
How a child reacts to stress or anxiety will determine if they’ll overcome it  or get stuck. That’s where coping skills and resilience come in.
Coping skills are those things we do during times of worry that help us get through. They’re habits and actions that slow the mind down and distract us.

We all have coping skills, but the trick it to choose ones that help us overcome problems, rather than contribute to them.

Last year I published a list of social skills kids need to develop. This article is a follow up and builds on a previous article on why coping skills are important.

“Problems are not the problem. Coping is the problem.”
Responding to stress and anxiety is all about having good coping skills. Here's 40 strategies for kids to try.

40 coping skills kids should try

Whether you work or live with kids, these coping skills are sure to help them take a break and start to see their problems in perspective:

  1. Put on some groovy tunes and sing. Or dance.
  2. Have a shower or bath. Even add in some bath salts or a bath bomb to make it feel special.
  1. Play cards or a board game.
  2. Get active. Play some basketball or handball. Go for a walk or swim a few laps. Exercise is a great remedy for stress or anxiety.
  3. Talk to a friend.
  4. Share a hot chocolate or milkshake.
  5. Do some deep breathing and feel it go all the way to their toes.
  6. Get out the playdough and create something.
  7. Draw or colour in. Doodle even. Grab some felt pens and get creative!
  8. Lie on the grass and look at the clouds.
  9. Make a mask or funny hat.
  10. Do something kind for someone else.
  11. Head to a park and feed the ducks.
  12. Make some funny photos with an app.
  13. Do some skipping with a rope and some old-school rhymes.
  14. Do a puzzle.
  15. Visit a friend or Grandma.
  16. Watch a movie, a favourite television show or some cat videos online.
  17. Jump on the trampoline.
  18. Flick through a joke book.
  19. Pray or think about what things are going well in life.
  20. Have a nap.
  21. Do a job. Tidy up a room or move some furniture. Run some errands even.
  22. Play with Lego. Build something!
  23. Blow bubbles.

“Stress is an important dragon to slay – or at least tame – in your life.” – Marilu Henner

  1. Call Kids Helpline and chat about what’s stressing them out.
  2. Do some cooking. Whip up a batch of cookies or make a salad.
  3. Write the worries down on cards or in a journal. Name the feelings that go with the concerns.
  4. Be a maker. Get out the craft stuff and get creative.
  5. Build a cubby with blankets and pillows.
  6. Read a story.
  7. Do some gardening.
  8. Play a game on a smartphone, or use a mindfulness app.
  9. Fly a kite. Even better, make one and then take it for a fly.
  10. Do a wordsearch.
  11. Work the stress out squeezing a squishy ball.
  12. Write a short story, or make up a cartoon.
  13. Eat a Mintie and tear the wrapper into a chain.
  14. Go for a walk and notice all the pretty things.
  15. Google a topic of interest. Learn a new fact.

How coping skills and resilience fit together

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a disappointment or challenge. It’s the partner to our coping skills.

People who overcome difficulties use coping skills to get their physical and emotional reactions under control. They then draw on their resilience to look at options for solving the problem.

We need to help kids expand their range of coping skills and prune off any unhelpful ones. Then as they’re using their coping skills in difficult situations, we can encourage them to persevere and work out a way forward.

Everyone will have different coping skills that work for them. Just like getting children to try new foods, it’s best to offer lots of variety and keep inviting them to try them.

Do you have some other ideas? I’d love you to share them below.

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