Coping skills are the supports and strategies that help children and young adults manage tough emotions and deal with stress. For kids and young adults who are still learning how to manage their emotions, learning these coping strategies is extra important. If we want kids and teens to use healthy coping strategies, we have to teach them how.
Practicing coping skills is essential. Research shows that just teaching these strategies once isn’t enough. In order for learners to effectively use these skills and tools to calm down when they are upset, they need to commit them to memory. This comes with practice.
With that, this list is filled with activities to teach and practice coping skills. Choose a few that you think will work for your learners and give them a try.
Here are 25+ strategies to teach and practice coping skills:
1. Start with a Mindful Morning
Use this free printable and digital activity to start each morning in a mindful way. Of course, it’s not something you can do just in the morning but anytime of day when you need a break. It includes deep breathing, mindfulness, practicing gratitude, and more.
2. Make a Coping Strategies List or Menu
Help kids and young adults understand their options for coping skills with a menu. Grab some pre-made coping strategies visuals or use this free coping strategies list to help kids and teens make a list of their own.
3. Watch Wildlife
Spend time outside (or just peek out the window) to observe the beauty of wildlife. Watching wildlife can reduce stress, improve focus, and promote feelings of calm.
4. Use Animal Live Cams
If you can’t get outside to watch wildlife, the next best thing is watching an animal live cam. I love these tools because they are calming from the very start. You can pretty easily find animals that your students will love to watch, whether it is a pair of bald eagles in the wild or a koala cam at the San Diego Zoo.
5. Do a Daily Emotions Check-In
Checking in with your own emotions is a critical way to manage emotions. Use this free printable and digital check-in page to teach students how to pause, ask how they feel, identify emotions, and move forward.
6. Color or Draw
Coloring and drawing are often a favorite coping skill because they are simple and easy to try. It’s important to mention that you don’t need to consider yourself an artist to use coloring as a coping skill. Just color and be. Use these free printable mindful coloring pages to give it a try.
7. Use an Interactive Mindfulness Book
Make practicing coping strategies interactive and fun with a digital mindfulness book. This digital workbook includes activities like breathing and guided visualizations to help kids feel calm and in control.
8. Write a Compliment List
Grab a notebook or just a piece of paper and write out compliments about yourself. This can actually be a challenge for some learners, but helps them focus on the positives while clearing the mind.
9. Listen to Music
Just like most coping skills, listening to music is a highly individualized strategy. Try different types of music and take note of how you and your learners feel.
10. Try Mindful Breathing
By focusing on the inhales and exhales of our breath, it can help restore calm and focus. Mindful breathing is one of the best techniques to try. Use some of these fun mindful breathing techniques to get started or grab these mindful breathing cards to use right away.
Reading for pleasure cane help learners of all ages feel cozy and calm. Help kids and teens find the right reading material for them; this can be anything from a picture book (yes, even for older learners), a magazine, or a classic chapter book they are interested in.
There is so much potential in using exercise as a calm down technique. Try different exercises from sports to stretching to see what works for you and your students.
13. Practice Yoga
Practicing yoga is a unique activity because it is exercise and mindfulness in one. Research has shown that yoga increases levels of GABA in our bodies. This amino acid fights against feelings of depression while creating feelings of calm. There are many videos (like this Yoga for kids Youtube channel) to help you get started.
14. Write in a Journal
Writing in a journal helps get thoughts out in a safe way. This can be extremely beneficial for people of all ages. Sometimes, just by writing thoughts out, you can learn to make sense of things in a different way. Give free writes or use more directed prompts. I put together this list of mindfulness journal ideas you can start right away. You can also get going right away with a journal focused on mindfulness.
15. Make a Coping Strategies Challenge
If you are looking for a way to integrate many different coping strategies, try this free coping strategies challenge. It includes a 30-day challenge focused on teaching a variety of coping skills. As kids try each one, they rate how effective they were.
16. Build Something
Use blocks, Legos, or any other tool to build something. Kids and teens can create freely, or build something based on how they are feeling.
17. Read Positive Affirmations
Reading positive affirmations can build confidence while also creating a sense of calm. Use this free positive affirmations activity to read through a list of self-talk statements and write out favorites to read.
18. Spend Time Outside
Being outside is a natural stress reliever that can be used whenever the weather allows. A walk outside can serve as a way to exercise and practice mindfulness at the same time. Look around and notice what you see and hear as you walk.
19. Make Printable Crafts
It can be calming to the central nervous system to color, cut, and put something together. Printable crafts can serve as a calm down strategy while also teaching about coping skills themselves. One of my favorite crafts is this Coping Strategies Wheel because it is a tool kids and teens can use later on as well.
20. Use a Fidget
Fidgets are tools that can help calm the body and mind. While they are fun, it’s important to first teach that these are not toys when we use them to get calm – instead, they are tools. Some favorites includes putty, kinetic sand, liquid timers, and stress balls.
21. Create a Coping Strategies Notebook
Put together individualized notebooks with this free coping strategies notebook activity. Just list in favorite coping skills, write step-by-step directions, and add a picture. This is a tool kids and teens can come back to again and again.
22. Write an Accomplishment List
Instead of focusing on all the things you have to do, try writing an “accomplishment list.” This is a list of all the things you have accomplished lately.
23. Use Digital Crafts
While printable crafts are a helpful tool, it’s sometimes great to have digital options too. Use this Positive Self-Talk Flower craft to learn about positive self-talk as a coping skill.
24. Use Brainteasers or Riddles
Brainteasers and riddles encourage us to think outside the box and challenge our minds. This can be a healthy brain break to reduce stress and refocus the brain in a positive way.
25. Laugh at Jokes
Laughing helps trigger the release of endorphins in the brain, sending out feel-good vibes and reducing stress. Try watching “try not to laugh” videos together or make up your own joke book.
26. Take Photos
Photography is an engaging hobby, but also a healthy coping skill that people of all ages can try. Use a camera or just a phone to take some interesting pictures of normal objects around you. Just by stopping and thinking about objects around, you are actually practicing mindfulness at the same time.
For some people, talking can be a healthy reset when they are feeling sad or stressed. Talking about topics unrelated to that actual problem can actually be a great way to start because it serves as a quick distraction. Use this free list of 100+ questions to build relationships.
28. Use a Relaxation App
Give calming apps a try! Some favorites include Breathe2Relax, Calm, Personal Zen, and Pacifica.
29. Make a Gratitude List
Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools when you are feeling down. Make a list of what you are thankful for. Change it up by trying to list out something you’re thankful for with every letter of the alphabet. Grab this free set of gratitude activities to give it a try.
I hope this list has been helpful. If you have more of your own favorite coping skills, share them below!