Life’s difficulties begin to arise as early as infancy and thankfully our coping abilities also begin to take shape at a young age. To cope is to manage the demands of a challenging situation by harnessing cognitive and behavioral skills. For parents looking to raise resilient kids equipped to handle the ups and downs of a lifetime, there’s good news: there is no complicated formula for boosting the capacity to overcome adversity. Simple, ordinary activities have the power to strengthen our kids’ coping skills. Let’s explore a few of these everyday opportunities for growth together…
Exercise. The American Heart Association recommends that children ages 6 and older get at least 60 minutes of exercise per day. Beyond physical benefits, more active children experience less stress and anxiety than their less active peers. Exercise also improves self-esteem and is associated with improved behavior, attention, and academic performance. In other words, exercise positions children to face challenges with a clear head and bolstered sense of self. In the long-term, valuing exercise during childhood establishes habits that will likely anchor well-being and predict healthy choices in adulthood.
Sports. Playing sports offers children opportunities to develop socio-emotional skills that will serve them beyond their youth. As children interact with teammates and coaches, they hone their communication skills, learn to rely on their teammates, and practice working together to achieve a goal. In sports, facing defeat is inevitable and a wonderful way for young players to learn how to fail with grace and perspective. In other words, sports teams are a safe, healthy microcosm in which children can develop coping skills that will prepare them for challenges later in life.
Mindfulness. Defined as the practice of being fully present in a given moment, mindfulness is an impactful coping strategy for people of all ages. Mindfulness techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, practicing stillness, and intentional silence can help children notice their feelings and pause before reacting to upsetting situations. Over time, children become experts at handling anger and frustration in effective, constructive ways. (For more on mindfulness and kids, don’t miss our round-up of 10 Books to Teach Your Children Mindfulness!)
Art. Research shows that making art—through painting, drawing, sculpting, collaging, or similar means – enhances the functioning of the nervous system and the brain. Art has the power to calm our minds and our bodies. For children especially, art is a means of exploring the inner world and expressing emotions that may be difficult to uncover through verbal or written means. The benefits of coping through art are multiplied through conversation—the art-making process and resulting pieces are excellent springboards for talking with children about their inner struggles.
Reading. The benefits of reading begin during infancy. Research demonstrates that reading aloud with children daily improves behavior and attention span. The act of reading calms the body and the brain. The characters and situations in stories help readers gain insight around a range of emotion-focused topics, such as making friends, facing hardship, and defying stereotypes. Like art, books can prompt rich and rewarding conversations about even the most sensitive topics.
Playing. One researcher described imaginative play as offering special “emotional opportunities” for children or safe spaces for them to explore their feelings in a creative and productive way. When playing with others, children learn the effects of their actions and how to regulate their behavior. There’s a reason that play therapy is one of the most empirically validated forms of treatment for children – play has the power to unlock and uncover issues that are difficult to talk about.
Have you helped a child build up their collection of coping strategies? Leave us a note below about how you boosted these skills in their everyday lives!