Most children and young people will develop coping strategies to deal with life’s challenges with the support of key people around them. The people most likely to support them are parents, other family members, friends and trusted adults who feature in their daily lives.
The presence of ‘One Key Adult’ in the life of a child or young person has a positive influence on their mental wellbeing. Children and young people with the support of one key adult are more connected to others, more self-confident, future looking and better able to cope with difficulties.
Parents and other key adults in the child or young person’s life can do the following to help them to develop coping skills.
- Listen to the child or young person and connect with them
- Validate the child or young person’s feelings e.g. ‘It’s clear you are feeling really anxious right now because of all that is happening at school/home.’
- Comment on what you see /paraphrase e.g. ‘So you say you are feeling a bit fed up at the moment.’’
- Look for exceptions – times when the young people says things are going better.
- Encourage the child to focus on these ‘exceptions’ and do more of the things that make them feel better.
- Help the child or young person to generate their own coping strategies building on things they are doing already, e.g. ‘So you said that you feel better when you talk to your friend/take the dog for a walk/go to the gym/listen to your music.’
- Be aware of body language and of what this is communicating about how the child or young person is feeling
- Ask how you can be of help e.g. ‘Is there anything I can do to take a little bit of the anxiety away?’
- Encourage the child or young person to seek help from others if needed e.g. ‘How about you speak to your sister/pupil support teacher to see if they can help you find other ways to make things a little easier right now?’
- Encourage the child to be active and to do sport or any kind of exercise that they enjoy
- Avoid the issue (this will not help a child or young person to address a situation)
- Talk just about problems (focus on the exceptions too)
- Rush to solve the problem (Remember, we all cope better when we have been supported to find our own solution to a problem)
- Dismiss their concerns and say they’re wrong to feel a certain way (only the child or young person knows how they are feeling; being told we are not feeling a certain way makes us feel worse)