Resilience: Helping Children and Teens Build Coping Skills
Stress is a significant part of our lives today, and while we all experience it, children and teens have a more difficult time managing it. Academic pressure, social tensions, and family stressors can all impact a young person’s mental well-being.
For this reason, parents need to help their children develop coping skills by guiding them through tough times instead of jumping in to save them from any discomfort that may come along.
Children and teens often present stress as what adults call a meltdown or a tantrum. Psychologists call it “flooding.” This flooding happens when a wave of intense, negative emotions flood in, and rational thinking goes out the door. The amygdala, which is the part of the brain that helps coordinate emotional responses to the environment, is engaged during this intense emotional episode.
Since the prefrontal cortex, or self-control center, is not fully developed, children and teens struggle to get control of the powerful wave of emotions. And to top it all off, emotions are contagious, so when children are upset, parents get upset, too.
When parents experience this with their child, it often leads to one of two possible responses. Either the parent wants to jump in and save their child from the distress, or they feel that the issue is not as big of a deal as the child is making it seem.
However, we must remember that children deal with situations that are real and big to them, such as starting a new school year or studying for an exam. If we don’t address stressors that our children experience, it can lead to the development of poor coping skills, a weakened immune system, and an increase in anxiety.
To counteract the effects of anxiety, it’s vital to help children become resilient in the face of adversity, stress, or failure. Parents need to refrain from “fixing” and, instead, connect and be present for them while validating their feelings. In the heat of the moment, working on calming techniques such as deep breathing or going for a walk can help calm them since oxygen stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Once they are calm, for younger children, it’s best to help them name the feelings they are experiencing. For teens, brainstorming solutions can be helpful as is engages the more rational and logical centers of the brain.
Many adults were not taught healthy coping strategies growing up, so teaching and modeling appropriate ones for children and teens is difficult.
On a positive note, there are numerous resources available to help. In the SKILLZ program, we use tools such as Teaching SKILLZ to help children develop a growth mindset by stimulating positive brain chemicals, and Parent SKILLZ to help parents better connect with and be attuned to their child’s needs.
Each of the classes at 4GK Martial Arts also carries an optimistic tone throughout, so children embrace mistakes and, therefore, develop a growth mindset.
Building coping skills takes a lot of practice, and it’s essential for parents to role model healthy coping mechanisms to guide their children in the development of their own skills. Finding things that makes a child feel good is key in creating these abilities that will lead to resiliency.
As the neuroscience saying goes, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Too much stress and no coping skills cause negative wiring in the brain to get stronger. But this can be changed when we strengthen the positive circuitry in the brain and spend more time working on healing procedures and well-adapted coping skills.
To learn more about the powerful Skillz childhood development program that uses martial arts as the vehicle for growth, or to get your child started at our Midlothian location, click, the button below:
Gentle East Martial Arts
6911 Chital Drive
Midlothian, VA 23112
Author: Jennifer Salama of Skillz Worldwide.
Jennifer is a 4th-degree black belt and has been training in martial arts since 2001. She has a Masters Degree in Child Psychology. She has embraced the SKILLZ curriculum because of its focus on child development and using martial arts as a vehicle to develop the child as a whole.