We can’t control what challenges we may encounter in life, but we can control how we cope with them. Coping skills are techniques or activities that help us manage our emotions and the behaviors that follow. Whether we realize it or not, we use those skills to handle everyday stressors. When bigger struggles arise — such as job loss, a death in the family or any other unexpected problem — the entire family can benefit from having practices already in place to help them move forward.
When we react to issues in unhealthy ways, it can lead to prolonged problems, such as temper tantrums in early life or substance use in adulthood. Instead, intentionally using effective coping strategies can help with personal growth and family bonding.
Here are five ways to support each other and find coping skills for your family:
1) Talk to each other
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it is important to normalize conversations about our emotions. Everyone in the family can check in with one another and become comfortable identifying how they’re feeling. Consider developing specific times for this — such as at the dinner table, in the car on the way home from school or during the bedtime routine.
2) Go on a mindful walk
Turning off televisions and putting down cell phones for a few moments outside can be meaningful. Parents or adults can share statements such as “I am overwhelmed with what I’m reading in the news. I think I need to step away and take some deep breaths,” or “I’m frustrated right now. I’m going to go on a walk and see if that makes me feel better.”
When families experience the outdoors together, they can focus on the sounds, sights, smells and feelings they find. This can help them connect with nature and each other, while thinking or talking about what they’re each going through.
3) Practice deep breathing together
When a parent or adult senses that a child is frustrated, they can say: “That sounds like it would be upsetting. Would taking deep breaths help right now?” The box breathing technique can calm and regulate our nervous systems, reconnecting us to the moment and avoiding becoming overwhelmed.
- Step 1: Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to a count of four.
- Step 2: Hold your breath for another slow count of four.
- Step 3: Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four.
- Step 4: Hold your breath for the same slow count of four.
- Step 5: Repeat this process as many times as necessary to feel grounded and calm.
4) Make time for family night
Having fun can fuel us. In the middle of a stressful season, having a family night can allow everyone to reset and regroup. Parents or adults can ask, “We all just had a tough time. What do you think about listening to music or playing games together?” Allowing each other the space to take a break from the stress can be helpful and healing for everyone.
5) Seek support
Consider your child’s mood, sleep patterns, behaviors, family dynamic and academic success. If you’re concerned about their overall well-being or the well-being of your family, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
The staff members at Burrell Behavioral Health have years of experience working successfully with families, helping them navigate issues adding to a stressful home life and developing practices that will support a child's success at school and in the community. Burrell offers a variety of services for families to meet the behavioral health needs of kids and adults.
Services begin with screening for eligibility. Screenings can be scheduled by phone at 417-761-5000 in southwest Missouri, 573-777-8300 in central Missouri, or through one of Burrell’s Connection Centers. To find a clinic near you, click here.