Coping strategies are important skills for kids and young adults to learn. These are the activities and strategies we use to help us calm down when we’re emotionally overwhelmed. We can probably all think of a few kids and young adults who need extra practice managing their emotions effectively! That’s where coping strategies come into play. It just makes sense: kids need to learn HOW they can help themselves calm down and feel better before they can actually do it.
It’s extremely important to note that kids can’t learn new strategies when they are already upset. When we are emotionally overwhelmed, we don’t think straight. That’s why it’s critical to teach and practice coping strategies when kids are calm. You can incorporate these skills as a lesson, small group activities, during a morning meeting, or just woven into your daily instruction.
If you work with learners who need extra help with self-regulation, this list might give you a few extra ideas for teaching and practicing coping skills so that kids can use them effectively when they really need them:
Use task boxes. In short, task boxes are just boxes or crates with tasks for kids to do. All the materials and directions are placed inside the box so it’s easy for kids to just open it up and practice. These coping strategies task boxes focus on learning coping strategies in a fun and interactive way. Each specific task is different. In some, kids will match coping strategies while others have students choose a coping strategy for a specific situation. My favorite tasks even have students actually practicing skills like deep breathing, positive self-talk, and more.
Play a board game. Games are always a fun way for kids to practice skills. In this coping strategies board game, kids will roll a dice and move through a game board as they answer questions about coping strategies. Some of the cards have students practicing strategies, while others allow kids to decide which strategies would be best in different situations. Best of all, you can use this as a “break” activity or end of the week reward since it is a game! Kids will have fun learning coping strategies without considering it work at all.
Use read-alouds. There are many great books that you can use to target and discuss coping strategies. One of my recent favorites is Super George and the Invisible Shield by Laurie Mendoza. This book highlights how one boy uses strategies to help him manage his emotions and stay calm.
Make a wheel. Sometimes hands-on activities can go a long way in teaching skills like coping strategies. A coping strategies wheel is a tool that kids create to practice, discuss, and remember coping strategies. My favorite part of this activity is that kids make their own individualized wheels that strategies that work for them. Note that even after kids make theirs, they can use them again and again to remind them about their strategies.
Complete the 30-day challenge. If you’re looking for a fun and free way to try out a bunch of new coping strategies, this coping strategies challenge is it! Students use their own calendar and try out a new coping strategy every day for 30 days. They can choose their own or you can direct them as to which strategies to try. It’s a great low-prep way to introduce many strategies. Some educators have even told me they have sent this activity home with kids over the summer!
Use an escape room. An escape room activity is a set of puzzles that kids complete to “escape” the room and win the challenge in a certain amount of time. In this coping strategies escape room, kids learn about deep breathing, coloring, yoga, listening to music, and more. The best thing about escape rooms is that kids have to work together throughout the activity. They are a little bit of work to set up, but always extremely engaging for the kids!
Use flip cards. Put together a set of coping strategies cards and put them on a ring for students to flip through and practice. Again, this is an activity that can be used over and over again when students really need to use their strategies.
If you are finding yourself needing resources and ideas for teaching coping strategies, I have put together a huge bundle of Mindfulness and Coping Strategies to target the skills needs need. It includes crafts, interactive activities, lessons, and more, all focused on helping kids and young adults manage their emotions. Mindfulness and coping strategies work especially well together to calm emotions, increase self-control, and create a peaceful community of learners. Give coping strategies a try for your learners!