Coping skills

Kids come to the clinic with the knowledge of what to do, but are not practicing coping skills.  When I speak with them, they give me such wonderful and mature solutions.  So why are they not practicing them?

It’s interesting when kids come to the clinic I ask them questions and they can often tell me what they usually do to cope with every issue. I am surprised in a nice way to see that children have acquired the correct language for so many solutions. For example I have children tell me about the breathing techniques and what distraction techniques that they use. 

What always concerns me though is that these techniques have not worked or that the problem is still there. Isn’t that bizarre?

I’ll try and teach children that some distraction techniques are beneficial in certain circumstances, for example when you wish to distract yourself when you are at the dentist. But in other situations, where for example children are feeling anxious about going to school, well distraction doesn’t always work and sometimes using a different method such as positive visualization can be more effective for some children. 

It’s nice to know that children have learned techniques and great methods from apps, parents, schools, TV, YouTube’s etc. There are plenty of resources available to children and this is very promising. 

So why are children still continuously becoming emotionally unwell with anxiety and panic, sadness, stress, and more?  It appears to be a growing trend.

Kids learn coping skills very easy.  Well this is my honest opinion.  Yes I have come across some challenging personalities but given the right approach, they learn coping skills just as easy as anyone else. 

I think kids learn coping skills very easily, in fact kids love learning anything new and practicing. I use lots of activities in my clinic. I have play dough, I have sand, I have figurines, I have lots of textas, drawing pencils, crayons, painting, puzzles, lego, games, cards, and more. And I love playing with the imagination. 

I really believe that a lot of children’s issues arise from their imagination because this is how they describe it. But the beauty in this is that this is where their solutions also lie. So we practice something different with the imagination. And we use different methods of art to express this and play through this and to practice this.

One great thing that happens in my clinic is I look for patterns that don’t necessarily serve the child well.  Quite often I discover this through the child’s story telling.  This is my opportunity as I carefully listen to the language, to discover the pattern that they run.  My mission? To challenge and interrupt this pattern.

We can teach kids anything and unfortunately this also means that we can teach kids negative beliefs, bad habits, unfavorable reactions, …and tomorrow, quite often we find it difficult to undo. So beware, for kids are always learning even though you are not teaching, you are continuously role modeling and demonstrating.  

Kids are the experts. 

Kids are definitely the expert’s. I’ve had kids come in with similar issues to one another and get to go home with different coping techniques to one another. I am not the expert, the child is. I am just good at seeing what best fits the child. I am the owner of four Child Care Centre’s. I’ve been in childcare for well over 25 years now, so I have watched how learning has changed and how we as teachers have to change the way we deliver learning. 

I remember when I used to have to plan for their learning and I used to have to plan specific activities. It was rather disturbingly uncomfortable when the activity did not go as planned. But then we educators were taught flexibility, and then I watched how learning occurs much easier and much more rapidly when we practice scaffolding techniques for example. Then, we allowed children to be our teachers and we use our skills to enhance and further their learning rapidly. 

It is the skill I bring into my clinic since I am a therapist as well. Some children learn visually, some learn kinesthetically, some auditory and some, a combination. I determine what works best. I listen to the child, the child trusts me, and then the child learns, and then the child grows. It’s always pleasing when the child makes self discoveries. And that’s when I know that they will walk out and leave behind their problem which no longer exists in their internal world.  I am brief and strategic, and so I am always determined to ensure individuals leave with progress.

I was taught that there are no unresourceful individuals just unresourceful states.  This is what I look for.  What is the experiential gap?  What needs to be learned.  What distortions are running.  This is all an interesting challenge.  Careful listening becomes extremely important here.

In one of my recent group sessions I called it “chit chat”.  I was amazed at how many kids enrolled for this.  I needed group sizes to remain small so I just added more time slots.  Where did I get this idea from to hold a chit chat session?  Well in my usual group sessions, I strategically ensure I still to learning outcomes for each individual child.  But I also noticed how kids turn to one another so often and share stories. I noticed much learning was taking place during their own exchange of personal information.  Naturally I was listening in to turn it into a learning opportunity.  And hence the idea came up for the chit chat session.

Some of the best coping skills that I have come across tend to be be mediation and relaxation techniques, learning how to enjoy time alone or time out, doing some exercise and thus using up reserves of energy, reading, being in the company of others, laughing, doing fun things /hobbies, and even ones own spirituality.

It is important that we teach kids to label and recognise their emotions so that they can have a reference of understanding.  Also teach your child to get to know them self and what triggers their emotions.  What one child finds annoying, may not be so annoying for another child, and what one child finds funny, may not be funny to another child.  We may know this as adults, but help your child to understand this.  I really believe working with strengths works well, and this means looking at what your child loves to do.  I seriously encourage strength recognition as it is strengths that assist with future problem solving skills.  Some kids may say they are not good at anything.  Help them find what their strengths are.  For example, giving things a go, being kind, being patient, sharing, having energy, being brave, listening, being forgiving, being able to choose, helping out, and many many more.  These are all strengths, and I have never met anyone without any strengths, despite what they say.  Help them discover their strengths.

Sometimes we may feel the need to teach kids the coping skills that we think they need.  But I urge you to collaborate with them.  They will teach you what they need, even if they are not doing it consciously. Be patient and work with the child.  What works for one may not work for the other.  Try /give things a go and if they do not work, then try something different.  I know for my self, I personally do not enjoy certain techniques, so why should I persist if they are not working for me.  Change is good.  Even a small variation can do wonders.  So don’t be afraid.  

Its like if I give you 5 ingredients you will attempt to create the same end product e.g. a salad, but you will do it different to the person in the next house.  You may use different amounts of dressing, you may cut the ingredients differently…you will individualise it and this is what works for you.  So why criticise it. Difference is good.

Coping skills may also change within individuals depending on their age or their experience. We never stay the same, we become stronger, vulnerable, motivated, unmotivated, etc at different stages in our lives.  This means there are times that our coping skills also need to change, as they may stop working for us, or we just know we need different techniques.  This is ultimately a great reflection /evaluation!  Remember, no matter what the age, it’s ok to make changes.

Story telling is a great way of teaching kids, or at least giving them ideas to try new skills.  You will enjoy their own creativity and contribution to the story.  Infact, invite them into the story to offer ideas and suggestions.   During some of my emotional intelligent workshops with young kids we create the story together.  We all bring in our own characters, the scene, the problem, the adventure, more problems /challenges and then I watch the children offer solutions and problems solving skills as I keep sneaking in challenges for them to solve.  This is a much more effective way for kids to be creative and achieve self discovery for problem solving skills.  And remember, even if the story doesn’t make sense, or it is unrealistic, that doesn’t matter at all.  What matters is that the child /children use that part of their brain to exercise creativity which leads to problem solving.  This is a necessary foundation for future problem solving.

Amanda Dounis

Positive Thinking Clinic

1/7 Magdalene Terrace

Wolli Creek, 2205

0458 850 850