In today’s world, it isn’t difficult for a child to get overly stressed. Too much stress leads to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. Family changes, dynamics, or dysfunction are a frequent cause of children and teen’s stress. Even more common stressors are a child being over scheduled or academic and sports related pressures. We should also add social anxiety in the mix as children try to fit in with their peers or handle the behaviors of others around them.
Whatever the cause, children and teens can’t always find ways to cope on their own. And the ways they do find, like cutting, drinking, and avoiding aren’t the healthiest. These coping skills must be taught, and if learned well, can benefit them for a lifetime.
Here is a list of skills which I call “self-care” to my clients. I teach my clients to take care of themselves, emotionally and physically, by doing one or more of the following:
- Using Calming Strategies – discovering ways to relax, distract, and get moving when anxious, sad, or angry.
- Keeping a Feelings Log – records their moods and emotions during the day and helps to process feelings about specific events.
- Keeping a Record of Daily Health – records their water intake, meals, and exercise for each day.
- Reflection Journal – a guided in-depth reflection on the week, including lessons learned, gratitude, and challenges.
- Mindfulness Training – using the 5 senses to be fully in the present rather than focused on the past or future, this includes other coping skills such as muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and meditation.
- Goal Setting and/or Task Initiation – including specific steps to reach them or perform them.
All children are unique in what tools they need to be their best self. This list is nowhere near complete. Some of my clients need organizational tools or tools related to emotional-regulation. But, for kids who are struggling, these six skills can be enlightening and motivating to them. They assist greatly in pointing them to the areas they need to give more attention and care. Helping my clients learn to correlate their feelings and actions to their everyday stressors empowers and assists them to make better and more conscious choices.
Often, clients do not want to talk to someone who has an emotional vested interest – a parent or guardian who can be disappointed, sad, too sympathetic, or even become angry. Talking to someone they can trust who remains objective is invaluable. Having said that, I want to give them tools to use long after they leave my office. I believe learning to care for themselves and cope with stress is an important key to a lifetime of optimal emotional health.