5 Skills Essential for Kindergarten - Coping Skills
Coping Skills are the first of the 5 Skills Essential for Kindergarten series. Today we are focusing on coping skills. Coping skills are vital to starting kindergarten.
My philosophy with coping skills and most social skills is to teach our kids young. Let them learn the hard lessons when the stakes are low. As toddlers, preschoolers, and even early elementary kids when they struggle or fail socially the stakes are very low. But later in life those failures can be life changing. I would rather my kids learn their lesson in my controlled environment when the stakes are losing iPad privileges than when they are young adults and the stakes are addictions or losing out on big opportunities.
What could a kindergartener possibly have to cope with you ask…
- Separation Anxiety -For many of our preschoolers and toddlers, kindergarten is the first time they are going to be away from mom or dad for an extended period of time.
- Group Settings – They are going to be one of many. This means their personal needs and wants cannot be met on the timeline that they’re used to.
- Social Interactions – How is your child going to react when another child gets picked to be the line leader or to answer a question? I know these things seem silly, but to our kindergartners it’s important.
There is going to be a time in school where your child is not going to get what they want and they need to be able to deal with those emotions in a healthy way.
Below are five different ways you can teach your child coping skills.
Say "No" and Stick to It
By far the simplest (not easiest) and most effective way to teach your child some coping skills is to give them opportunities to practice. Saying “no” when they ask for something will give them an opportunity to practice those coping skills.
I’m not saying you should say no to every request and don't go out of your way to say no, it will come up naturally, I promise. It doesn’t have to be angry or mean. You can simply deny a request and then redirect your child. “No we’re not going to do x right now. We’re doing y.” This will teach them that we don’t always get everything we want and that’s okay. Life will go on.
When my kids are struggling to cope, my first instinct is to make it better for them. Fix the problem. I am not the old school mom who just says "tough luck figure it out." But I also know that fixing it for them is a short term solution. It's the old adage of give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish feed him for life.
Comfort them, acknowledge their disappointment, make a plan for how we can meet their request in the future, but don't give in in the moment.
Take Deep Breaths
Taking deep breaths allows your child to slow down and calm their mind. It is hard to think about anything else when you are concentrating on your breathing. Teach your preschooler to take deep breaths when they are upset. If they are already crying, have them take in deep breaths until they calm down. If they are growing frustrated and about to lose control, teach them to take 5 deep breaths so they can calm down before they act.
Count to Ten
Counting serves the same purpose as taking deep breaths. In order for your preschooler to count, they have to focus on their numbers rather than whatever is upsetting them. It also gives them 10 seconds to calm down before acting.
When your child acts out or you see that they are getting frustrated and about to lose their temper, say to them, “I see that you’re upset. Let’s take a moment to count to 10 so we can calm down before we act.” Saying this to them will help them identify that the emotion they are feeling. Then they learn that when they feel that way in the future they should stop to count.
Talk It Out
Sometimes all they need is to be able to say, “That irritated me,” and then they are able to move on.
I had a student who struggled a lot with coping skills. She acted first and thought second. This led to a lot of problems behaviorally and academically. I worked to gain her trust and we set up a deal: she was allowed to tell me how she felt and she didn’t get in trouble for telling me her feelings (as long as she didn’t tell me anything that I was required to report.) She frequently told me about other teachers’ and students’ actions. She told me that she wanted to hit those individuals. Having the opportunity to tell me about those feelings without repercussions led to her being honest with me and kept her from acting on those emotions.
Teach your child to be able to voice their feelings without repercussions so they know they can use talking as an outlet instead of actions.
* It’s important to teach them though, that there is a difference between voicing your feelings and saying cruel things about other people. It is OK to say Jenny did X, Y, and Z and that makes me feel angry. It is NOT OK to say Jenny is a mean terrible horrible person because she did X, Y, and Z.
I suggest fidgets or other calming activities that I’ve seen some of my colleagues share, such as blowing bubbles, with a bit of caution. For toddlers who are who are just beginning to self-regulate, I fully support activities like blowing bubbles or playing with a sensory bottle.
However, our preschoolers are preparing for Kindergarten (after all, this series is about skills for kindergartners). Whether or not you agree with the teacher’s stance on fidgets, many teachers do not allow them in their classroom. With that said, I would not want my child to be dependent upon an item or an activity that will possibly not be allowed in the classroom. Furthermore, even if they are allowed in your child’s classroom, your child may not have it with them at all times of their life and it seems more beneficial to teach coping skills that they can take anywhere with them.
Sharing and taking turns
Ready for the next lesson? Learn how to teach sharing and turn taking skills!