The first step in helping kids (or anyone for that matter) to deal with and process the difficult emotions in their lives is to help them understand and name emotions. At Hope 4 Hurting Kids, we use the Super Simple Feelings Management Technique for that. Once we have helped kids to understand their emotions, we need to provide them with means for dealing with those emotions.
The second step towards emotional maturity and healing is to develop a robust set of coping skills. Coping Skills are designed to help “take the edge” of emotions and assist us in dealing with them. Unfortunately, that moment when a young person is drowning in emotions is not the right time to start thinking about coping mechanisms. Instead, it is important that kids and teens have at their disposal a tool box full of coping mechanisms that work for them that they can draw from in a time of crisis.
At Hope 4 Hurting Kids, we’ve developed another mnemonic to help keep track of the many different types of coping mechanism. This time we borrowed from the title of a popular book series by Richard Carlson. The different types of coping skills can be readily recalled by remembering the phrase:
Please Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Let’s have a look at each component:
P(lease) – Physical
Physical Coping Skills include both physical activities that help exert some of the energy that comes from difficult emotions and also taking care of ourselves physically so our bodies are in a better state to withstand the effects of those emotions. Things like running, engaging in sports, playing on the playground, cleaning the house or anything else that gets a young person moving and exerts physical energy are effective Physical Coping Skills. Additionally, we want to encourage kids to develop good habits to take care of themselves like eating healthy, limiting caffeine and getting a good nights’ sleep. All of these will enable a person to more effectively deal with difficult emotions.
D(on’t) – Diversion
Diversion Coping Skills serve to temporarily take our minds off of whatever is causing distress and are sometimes called Distraction Coping Skills. They are not meant to be a final solution but serve as a brief reprieve from dealing with the issue and, hopefully, allow a young person the space and distance to come back to the emotion and tackle it more effectively. Diversion Coping Skills include things like playing a game, doing a puzzle, reading, making crafts, writing, playing with fidget spinners and fidget boxes, drawing a picture, singing, dancing, watching cute YouTube videos and even playing video games.
S(weat) – Soothing
Soothing Coping Skills help kids to relax and relieve tension. Certain of the Diversion Coping Skills listed above also have a soothing component like coloring, fidget spinners, singing and watching cute YouTube videos. Other Soothing Coping Skills (which often involved engaging the five senses) include laughing, crying, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness and taking a warm shower or bath.
T(he) – Thinking
Thinking Coping Skills (sometimes called Cognitive Coping Skills) involve exercising the mind to engage difficult emotions and deal with irrational thoughts. They include things like brainstorming solutions, evaluating assumptions, creating a gratitude list, making a list of things you’re good at, lowering expectations, making a crisis plan and making a list of goals. The activities are designed to help young people take a more critical look at the issues and circumstances behind their difficult emotions.
S(mall) – Social
Social Coping Skills (also called Interpersonal Coping Skills) involve interacting with others in a way that helps you to process and handle your emotions and situations. These can include spending time with friends, serving other people, talking to a trusted adult, making a gift for someone, giving a hug, playing with a pet or calling a hotline or joining a support group.
S(tuff) – Spiritual
Spiritual Coping Skills call on something bigger than ourselves to help process the situation. They include obvious things like praying and attending a faith service but also include other activities that help people to understand their place in the world like journaling, meditating, finding a worthy cause to commit time to and getting back to nature.
Taken together, all these different types of coping skills will help young people to better handle the emotions that life throws at them. So, Please Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff! It’s an easy way to help young people (and those us who love them) remember all those different types of coping skills that they have hopefully filled their coping tool boxes with.
Please Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff is the second step in our three stage comprehensive plan for helping young dealing with emotions called Jump In! Stand Strong! Rise Up!
Find out more about each stage:
- Jump In! (The Super Simple Feelings Management Technique)
- Stand Strong! (Please Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff); and
- Rise Up! (Grand Feelings Exit Plan)
For more awesome resources for learning about and dealing with emotions, please visit our Hope 4 Hurting Kids Emotions Help Center.