3 Problems With “Teaching” Coping Skills

Don’t get me wrong here — yes we absolutely need to teach coping skills to children.

But what is so often overlooked in the relationship of the adult to the child. We must be regulated ourselves to help children grow with their coping skills.

We learn by experience

Imagine being taught to ride a bike with only verbal directions. Now imagine trying to figure it out alone, without adult support when the time comes to get on the bike. Yikes! Kids learn by experience, and when it comes to emotions, kids learn best by learning in the moment when the emotion is present with adult support.

We are wired for connection

The relational neurosciences show us that we are wired to connect to others. Children rely on adults for self-regulation until much later in development. That means we as adults need to be there in the moment to help them feel heard, to set limits, and to co-regulate. That means we have to be regulated too!

We miss opportunities

When we utilize tracking, reflecting, attunement, and other child counseling skills, we are able to use emotions in the therapy room as opportunities. Opportunities to show children the individuality of their feelings, their triggers, their unmet needs, how to regulate, and that feelings are not scary when someone is with you.

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