It is important for children to know how to cope with whatever life brings them, and we can start doing this in age-appropriate ways, starting from when they are old enough to vocalize their feelings.
You don’t need to be a helicopter parent, swooping in and rescuing your child every time the slightest thing goes wrong. They need to be able to learn some resilience even from a young age, so letting them fail from time to time and accepting that sometimes these things will happen. Studies show that developmentally inappropriate parental involvement can be associated with higher levels of child anxiety and depression
Here are some age by age coping skills that are valuable for children to learn.
- If your child gets angry about leaving a play date or frustrated about her tower of bricks tumbling down, label those feelings, let them learn what those emotions are, know that they are normal and that you understand them.
- Allow children to take safe risks. Allow them to experience the thrill of reaching a higher rung on the play gym. Don’t let your own anxiety show through.
- Let children try new tasks for themselves, such as doing their own buttons and zippers when dressing, carrying dishes to the counter after a meal, wiping up spillages, putting toys away when finished, and make sure to model common decency, like saying thank you to store assistants, the mailman, babysitters, and doctors.
Grade School Age
- Let children lose at a board game instead of allowing them to always win.
- If your child’s team loses at a sports game, acknowledge the disappointment, discuss new training strategies, but don’t encourage bad sportsmanship.
- Don’t try to minimize your child’s feeling or talk them out of them. Empathize and talk them through.
- Teach tools for coping such as drawing how they feel. Use something like
Coloring Book for Me & Mandala to learn to cope with anger or anxiety.
Middle/High School Age
- If your child is having conflict with a someone, encourage them to manage the situation before you try to intervene. Don’t immediately side with your child, even if you think the other person is wrong.
- If your child doesn’t pass on a test – academic, driving, not making a team – accept the failure and talk about where it went wrong and how it could be improved for next time.
- If a child didn’t get chosen for the team or the choir or an award, don’t put the responsibility on the person choosing. Allow your child to feel the discomfort of not getting what she wants and let her know that she must work hard to achieve these goals.
If some of the suggestions above make you feel a little uneasy, that’s ok. It may reveal to you the areas where you can make some modifications to help teach your kids more independent coping strategies. Most of all, whatever age your child is, always remember to communicate.
Isabel Ford writes about important parenting topics in her articles as she discusses a variety of ways to raise independent, happy and healthy kids.