With so much going on in the world today, we could all use extra supports and strategies to cope with tough emotions. Whether it is a scary current event in our world or a problem in their own personal life, there are many reasons why kids might experience strong and challenging feelings. While it’s true that even adults need support in coping with feelings, this is even more true for children and teens.
It’s important to remember that brains of kids are not yet developed. Science tells us the brains of children and teens are still a work in progress. Their “thinking brain,” or prefrontal cortex, lags behind their “emotional brain,” known as the limbic system. They can’t always think through difficult situations on their own. What this means is that kids are going to need extra support, guidance, and practice managing tough emotions when they come up.
Important note about the resources: It’s true that I do have much more in depth resources for coping strategies, so feel free to check those out if you’re looking for longer lessons, workbooks, and activities. The ones I’ve chosen here are all completely free activities and tools you can use right away. I hope they make a difference for your learners.
One more note: These resources are not in any way a substitute for counseling and support. If someone is struggling with mental health needs, please make sure to reach out to a counselor or therapist who can provide the support they need. Mental health is health and it matters.
Here are free resources and activities to help kids and teens manage tough emotions:
1. Coping Strategies Visual Poster
Use this free coping strategies poster to teach, review, and practice coping skills with kids. The 12 coping strategies included are universal techniques that all kids and teens can try, from checking in with feelings and talking to writing in a journal and coloring. A blank page is included so you (or students) can also add individualized calm-down strategies.
2. Emotions Check-In
Research tells us that just identifying our feelings can help us cope with them better. Use a daily emotions check-in to help students build self-awareness and self-regulation skills now and in the future. A few different versions are included to help you meet the needs of your students.
3. Positive Affirmations
Positive self-talk is one of the most powerful tools we can provide kids and teens. It can help build confidence, lift our mood, and cope with tough feelings. Use this free positive affirmation list to help students read through over 100 positive self-talk statements. They will then choose their favorites and make a personalized list.
4. Relationship-Building Questions
Talking with kids and teens should never be under-estimated. Building and strengthening relationships is an important activity that helps kids feel safe, loved, and respected. Use these 100+ relationship-building questions to take a break from academics and focus on their needs.
5. Mindful Coloring Pages
Practicing mindfulness means learning to be present in the moment. That means not worrying about the past or the future; just being in the “right now.” This is a skill that takes practice, but has big positive outcomes. Use these coloring pages to help students color and relax. Set the tone with calming music at the same time.
6. Resilience & Overcoming Adversity Activities
Resilience is a powerful skill. We can help kids and teens understand adversity, what it means, and how to overcome our struggles. Use these workbook pages to get the conversation started on resilience.
7. Mindful Breathe Boards
By learning to focus on our breathing, we can feel more calm and focused. I love the idea of breathe boards because they make mindful breathing much more tangible for learners. You can print them out and place on desks or binders.
8. Gratitude List
Practicing gratitude is about identifying the positives we have in our lives. Use these free gratitude activities to explain gratitude and practice coming up with positives for every letter of the alphabet.
9. Coping Strategies Notebook
A coping strategies notebook is a favorite tool of mine. The idea is that students set up their own individualized binders, filled with strategies that work for them. Use these coping strategies notebook template pages to create your own notebooks. Add more and more coping strategies as you learn and practice them together.
10. Mindful Morning Check In
Start the day with a simple 5-step mindful morning check in activity. Students will take 5 deep breaths, list 4 things they notice, identify 3 things they are grateful for, say 2 positive self-talk statements, and choose 1 thing they are looking forward to for the day.
11. Social-Emotional Journal
Journal writing can be a simple and effective way to express thoughts and feelings. Practice journaling with a free week of this social-emotional learning journal. The first prompts focus on strengths and challenges, which can be a great way to build confidence and self-awareness.