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Creating a Coping Skills Plan: with a Free Printable for Kids!

Updated: Jul 8


We all have different feelings that come and go all of the time. Some children, teens and adults may become overwhelmed with BIG feelings, and not know how to handle them appropriately. Having a coping skills plan for times like these is such a valuable tool!

I encourage all of my clients to create a coping skills plan and save it in a place that is easily accessible. They might also want to put some art supplies or some fun sensory tools with it. Some of my favorite sensory tools are these sensory stress balls, scented silly putty, stretchy string, kinetic sand, fidget toys or a hoberman sphere which is a great tool to take deep breaths with. If you are creating a coping skills toolbox, it would be great to keep your coping skills plan with it. I will write more about a coping skills tool box in a future post, but you can check out some other ideas from my whole coping skills room here!


Be sure to positively reinforce your child when you see them using their coping skills appropriately and modeling you using your own coping skills as well! I have created this video along with a free Coping Skills Plan (a fillable and printable version) that can be downloaded in my free resource library by subscribing at the bottom of this page.


If using this in telehealth, you can stream the video through a screen share during a session. You might even consider pausing the video and creating the plan step by step with your child or client.



Why Teaching Coping Skills is Important


Research has shown that teaching children coping skills can have significant positive impacts on their emotional and psychological well-being. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, children who are taught coping skills exhibit lower levels of anxiety and depression and have psychological adjustment compared to those who are not taught these skills (Compas et al., 2017). Developing coping mechanisms helps children manage stress more effectively, which is crucial for their overall mental health.


Incorporating coping skills into daily routines can be straightforward and beneficial. For instance, using relaxation techniques such as a trauma-informed progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises from Skills for Big Feelings can significantly reduce stress levels. Developing Minds states that practicing any form of relaxation for one minute or more lowers a child’s heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature, and muscle tension in children as young as kindergarten age.

Creating a Coping Skills Plan


It's important to prepare this coping skills plan in advance, because if the brain is experiencing stress and dysregulation, it can be harder to learn.


This resource guides you through how to create a coping skills plan. It is organized in the following manner:



Identify your supports and the people who care about you


List the people who care about you. Having a support network is crucial. These are the people you can turn to when you need help or just someone to talk to. Supports can include family members, friends, teachers, counselors, or anyone else who makes you feel safe and supported. Writing down their names and contact information can be a helpful reminder that you are not alone. You can even include pets in your supports! I like to have kids include supportive people both at home and at school.



Draw or write your favorite coping skills


Draw or write your favorite coping skills. It's important to have a variety of strategies at your disposal. Here are some categories and examples:


Creating Something: Engaging in creative activities can be a powerful way to express and manage emotions. Options include cooking, baking, making art, coloring, drawing, painting, using clay or playdough, writing, or listening to and playing music. Creativity allows for emotional expression and can be a great distraction from stress.


Moving your Body: Physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mood. Ideas include dancing, stretching, taking a walk, playing sports, exercising, or jogging. Movement can release built-up tension and provide a healthy outlet for energy.


Using Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques can calm the mind and body. Examples include progressive muscle relaxation, relaxation apps, or specific breathing techniques from Skills for Big Feelings like flying bird, equal breathing, smell the flower, or buddy breath. These practices can help reduce physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.


Connecting with others: Social connections are vital for emotional health. This can involve talking to or checking in on someone, helping someone, sharing jokes, or spending time with a pet. Building and maintaining relationships provides emotional support and a sense of belonging.


Using Distraction: Sometimes, taking your mind off stress can be helpful. Activities could include building something, doing a puzzle, playing a game, watching a video, cleaning or organizing something, reading or researching something, or making or prioritizing a list. Distractions can provide a break from stressors and offer a mental reset.



Draw or write down useful tips for your body


Draw or write down useful tips for your body. Taking care of your physical health is essential for emotional well-being. These basic self-care practices can significantly impact your mood and energy levels. Tips might include:


  • Getting enough sleep

  • Going outside and spending time in nature

  • Taking a shower or bath

  • Eating healthy foods

  • Drinking enough water

  • Moving your body



Write down or draw happy helpful thoughts to think about


Write down or draw your happy, helpful thoughts. Positive thinking can shift your perspective and improve your mood. These might include affirmations, memories of happy times, or visualizing a positive future (like a vision board.) Encouraging children to think of and write down happy thoughts can help them develop a more optimistic outlook.



Imagine your Relaxing, Happy Place

Use your senses to imagine your relaxing, happy place and then draw or write about it. Visualization can be a powerful tool for relaxation. Encourage children to close their eyes and imagine a place where they feel safe and happy, engaging all their senses in the description. The place can be a real life place the've visited, an imagnary place, or a combination of the two. This mental escape can provide comfort and reduce stress.

Use this Done-For-You Coping Skills Plan Free Printable


I am offering a free copy of this plan by subscribing to my email list, you'll also get access to my free SEL resource library. To subscribe, just go here and once you opt-in, you will be sent a password. I suggest using a personal address and not a work address. If you don't receive the opt-in right away, be sure to check your other folders (such as promo.)



If you are interested in more resources about teaching children how to use coping skills, please check out this emotional regulation curriculum: Skills for Big Feelings: A Guide for Teaching Kids Relaxation, Regulation, and Coping Techniques. It has EVERYTHING you need to teach coping skills to kids in a fun way including crafts, games, activities, and more! It is based on expressive arts therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma-informed mindfulness, and somatic techniques.


Please support my work by following me on facebook and instagram and sharing a link to my website with your colleagues or friends who might find it useful!



Scroll down to the bottom of this page to access the free resource library!


References

American Psychological Association. (2018). The road to resilience. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience


Compas, B. E., Jaser, S. S., Dunbar, J. P., Watson, K. H., Bettis, A. H., Gruhn, M. A., & Williams, E. K. (2017). Coping and emotion regulation from childhood to early adulthood: Points of convergence and divergence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 53, 64-72.  


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