Healthy Coping Skills are:
knowing that we control our own lives: if we have a conflict or failure, we can change the situation. There is no such thing as a mistake. If we learn something from an experience, it is a lesson. If we cannot get what we want, we can make a situation the best it can be. Sometimes we have to accept that a situation IS the best it can be, even if it means the acceptance of loss and the experience of pain. Pain is temporary; pain passes with time.
It is our job as parents to teach our children healthy coping skills. Unfortunately, in order for our children to learn healthy coping skills, they must encounter negative situations on their own and learn how to deal with them. We parents can do much to help our children learn healthy coping skills. We can act as support: endeavor to never solve their problems for them; give them permission to have feelings (by encouraging them to tell us what they feel); and ask questions: What can you do about the problem? What did you do to create this situation? Help them know that they have control and only they can solve the problem by taking action in their own behalf.
How do we teach coping skills and control? We must step back and allow our children to make mistakes, hurt, and allow them to learn ways they can create a better situation for themselves. They must do this their way, not our way. We can help by constantly reflecting the situation back to them instead of giving them our knowledge gained from our experiences. We stop telling them what to do about a problem, or worse, doing something for them. We listen to their problem and ask: What are you feeling about the situation? What are you going to do about it? We ask: What do you want from this situation? What are you willing to settle for in this situation? and most important, help them see the consequences of their actions, how they created the situation and what the consequences are for the alternatives they propose. We support, we do not interfere.
How We Teach Children Healthy Coping Skills:
Most of today’s parents were raised by parents who structured, disciplined, and forced us to face the consequences of our actions in the same way the world does. When it came time for us to emancipate, the world and its demands were so similar to what was expected of us as children growing up, there was little or no shock at attaining adulthood.
Tragically, we parents often run interference for our children. What is running interference? It is when parents don’t allow children to face the consequences of their actions. Parents who, for example, run to the school, neighbors or their kid’s friends in order to save their children from situations the child has created, are running interference. Children interpret these behaviors by the parents as telling them; You cannot take care of yourself. You will always need me to solve your problems. Many are deeply afraid that we are trying to control them and their lives. This is part of the reason that our children control battle and power struggle with us. We can empathize that our goal is to teach them to be in better control. Once children realize that we truly want them to have control in their own life, our relationship with them shifts to a win / win.
What happens when a parent doesn’t help a child learn to resolve his own problems? What happens to a child who doesn’t learn to deal out what’s happening to him for his own self? Children may interpret our behavior as a message that they are incapable and will ALWAYS need to depend on someone else. There is a key theme here. It is forever. While it is rarely verbalized, our children see things as forever until they have had enough experience with life to learn that nothing is forever.
Coping skills and control teach our children that:
1) NOTHING is forever.
2) Failure is a way to learn.
3) ALL people make mistakes.
4) Pain, no matter how intense, is temporary.
5) “I can change my life and make it better for ME!” (not just for mom, dad or friends).
There is a balance in what we teach our children. This is true for under-achieving and over-achieving kids. We can love / help them in a way where they learn to love / help themselves. We can expect the best from our children while we let them know that we still respect them when they have a failure. Teaching our children coping skills is one of the greatest gifts we will ever give our children. So when they stumble on life’s obstacles, they will be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and continue on; knowing, they are worthwhile and human.
Healthy Coping Skills:
It is our job as parents to teach our children healthy coping skills. Unfortunately, in order for our children to learn healthy coping skills, they must encounter negative situations ON THEIR OWN and learn how to deal with them.
What Parents Can Do to Help:
Parents can be of the most value to our children if we act as a support to our children.
1. Never solve a problem for them.
2. Ask them questions: What did YOU do? What did YOU do to create this situation?
3. Help them know that THEY have control and only THEY can solve the problem by taking ACTION on their own behalf.
This is an excerpt from the parenting book “Lessons From Littleton” by Dr. Brian Brody & Sandy Petersen.