Coping Skills For Kids: Managing Feelings & Emotions For Elementary-Middle School | Self-Regulation
Do you ever experience big emotions that are difficult to control? Do you ever feel angry, sad, anxious, worried, frustrated, depressed, or any combination of these stressful emotions? Today, you will learn how to manage big emotions in three simple steps:
- Notice and identify your feelings.
- Think about coping skills you can use to feel better.
- Take action by practicing one or more coping skills.
Being a kid is fun, but sometimes there are stressful things that cause your emotions to run wild. We call these stressful things triggers. Some triggers might include when you lose at a game or activity, when something embarrassing or unexpected happens to you in front of your friends when you want to go out to play but you have to stay in and do your chores, or even when you are hungry or tired.
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What are some of the things that trigger your big emotions?
The first step to managing big emotions is to notice and identify your feelings. Sometimes taking a moment to stop and think about your feelings is enough to identify your emotions. Other times, you might have a hard time knowing what you’re feeling. If you’re having trouble identifying your emotions, you can use visual tools such as a feelings chart, feelings wheel, or feelings thermometer to help you better understand the emotion you are feeling. It can be helpful to ask yourself three important questions:
1. What am I thinking?
Maybe you’re thinking about how you’re going to fail your big test tomorrow or about how much you hate doing your chores. Your negative thoughts often cause negative emotions. So, noticing your thoughts can be the first step to managing your emotions.
2. What do I feel in my body?
Do you feel your face getting hot, your heart beating faster, or butterflies in your stomach? If you notice the feelings and sensations in your body, this can be a helpful signal that you need to do something to calm down.
3. How do I act when I feel this way?
- Am I arguing and yelling?
- Am I shutting down and refusing to talk?
- Am I avoiding an important task?
- Your actions can be another key signal letting you know that your emotions are rising, and it’s time to use a coping skill.
After identifying and naming your emotions, next, you want to think of coping skills you can use to feel better. It can be helpful to break down coping skills into four categories:
1. Relaxation skills
These are things you can do to relax your brain and body.
2. Distraction skills –
These are things you can do to get your mind off of your stressful emotions. The key to distraction skills is to not just escape the stressful situation but instead to take some time to get your mind off of the big emotion and then return feeling calm and under control.
3. Movement skills –
These are things you can do to move your body to physically release the stressful emotion.
4. Thinking skills –
These can be encouraging statements you say to yourself or questions you ask yourself to challenge your negative thoughts. If you use a feelings thermometer to help you identify how you are feeling, this can help you select the best coping skills to manage your emotions.
if you’re feeling sad or disappointed, you might use different coping skills than if you’re feeling frustrated or angry. If you’re sad, you might do something to lift your mood up, but if you’re angry, you might do something to calm yourself down. Sometimes, you can use the same coping skills to manage different emotions. For example, you might be feeling nervous for a test, so you take some deep breaths to calm down. Or you might be feeling angry that you don’t get to play the game you want at recess, and you might also take some deep breaths to calm down. If you are having trouble thinking of coping skills, ask an adult for help.
The final step to managing your big emotions is to take action by practicing one or more coping skills. Be prepared to practice different coping skills for different situations. Imagine having an invisible toolbox of coping skills. If you are building a house and you need a screwdriver, you wouldn’t want to get stuck with only a hammer. This is why we need different tools for different situations.
It can take a lot of courage to take action, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. If one coping skill does not work, move on to another until you find the right combination of coping skills to help you feel better. It’s important to remember that all feelings are okay; it is what you do with them that matters.
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So, the next time you feel stressful emotions, big or small, remember to:
- identify your feelings;
- think about coping skills you can use to feel better
- Take action by practicing one or more coping skills. And remember, the more you practice, the easier it will get.