Teaching Kids to Bounce Back: Physical, Social, Cognitive and Spiritual Strategies for Coping
Learning to regulate emotions is an important life skill that must be developed. Like a muscle, the more you work at it over time, the stronger, more capable you get.
The good news is, there are several skills to help you teach your children how to cope with emotion. One might even look at this set of skills as a toolbox they can pull from during challenging times.
There are four major "tools," or coping strategies, to help your kids regulate their emotions:
God created us with physical bodies. Being good stewards of our bodies by eating well, sleeping well, and exercising can help in regulating emotion. Additionally, in moments of distress or upset, intentionally moving our bodies in ways to promote peace and calm can be very powerful. This can include taking deep, abdominal breaths; engaging in mindful movement; or going for a run.
God also created us as social beings who benefit when we "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). Mary Pipher's book 'In the Shelter of Each Other' captures well what social science research has repeatedly demonstrated: that having social support is critical to navigating life's challenges, big or small.
Part of what helps us settle down after an emotional high is rethinking a situation — approaching the matter from a more rational point of view after stepping back to gain perspective.
Scripture says that we are "changed by the renewing of our minds" (Romans 12:2), and cognitive therapists would agree. Changing the way we think about our circumstances, even if the circumstance itself doesn't change, can be enough to regulate emotions. When we switch from perfectionistic or catastrophic thinking to a more reasonable, gracious, and perspective-taking approach, we can begin to calm down.
As described in the paragraphs above, the physical, social, and cognitive approaches to emotional regulation seem to be God-designed — spiritual through and through. Being intentional about including explicitly spiritual practices — from prayer, to reading scripture, to meditation — is critical for a believer's journey. Meditating on God's promises to "be with us" as our shelter, Hiding Place and Shepherd can impart peace as you trust that you can "cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
As you teach your children to pull from their varied "toolbox" of skills, you're imparting valuable lessons that will equip them for the challenges of the day-to-day.