Healthy You - Every Day

The ABCs of Coping Skills for Kids (and Parents)

Teach your kids (and yourself) this alphabet of healthy ways to cope with and express feelings and emotions

Healthy ways for kids to cope with and express feelings and emotions

Sometimes emotions and feelings can feel really big, especially when you’re small. Kids experience complex feelings just like adults. They get frightened, nervous, anxious, angry and sad. However, they don’t always know how to handle these emotions they’re feeling.

“Young kids usually don’t have the vocabulary to talk about how they are feeling or the knowledge to identify what emotion it is that they are feeling,” says pediatrician Maria Aramburu de la Guardia, MD, with LVPG Adolescent Medicine and Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital. “Instead, they communicate their emotions in other ways, which aren’t always the healthiest and may involve them acting out their feelings in physical, inappropriate or problematic ways.”

As a parent or guardian, you play an important role in helping kids understand their feelings and behaviors, and by showing them how to manage their feelings in positive and constructive ways. This matters because kids who learn healthy ways to express and cope with their feelings are more likely to:

  • Be empathetic and supportive of others.
  • Perform better in school and their career.
  • Have more positive and stable relationships.
  • Have a good mental health and well-being.
  • Display less behavioral problems.
  • Develop resilience and coping skills.
  • Feel more competent, capable and confident.
  • Have a positive sense of self.
“Young kids usually don’t have the vocabulary to talk about how they are feeling or the knowledge to identify what emotion it is that they are feeling.” - Maria Aramburu de la Guardia, MD

To help teach your child how to build healthy coping strategies for managing tough emotions and feelings, teach them the ABCs of coping skills.

Ask for help or support.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and self-awareness.

Belly breaths.

Take slow, deep, breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, until you have returned to a resting, calm state.

Count to 10 (or until I’m calm again).

This is a great coping skill for anxiety and anger. Whether it’s to a number or backwards from one, counting gives you time to calm down and collect your thoughts before responding to a stressful situation.

Do something creative.

Coloring and drawing are great constructive distractions that enable you to use creativity to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Eat a healthy snack.

Physical hunger impacts your emotional and mental well-being, and affects your mood. Grabbing a snack or a bite to eat could be all you need.

Find five.

Look around the room and name five objects or people you see.

Get outside.

Fresh air can help bring you back to the moment.


Hug a stuffed animal, pillow or someone you love.

Imagine your favorite place.

Or go to it if you can. Emotions are easier to face when you’re in a better environment.


Write your feelings down.

Kind act.

Kindness has a way of making the person receiving it and showing it both feel better.

Listen to music.

Whether you’re happy, sad or any emotion in-between, there’s a song for whatever emotion you’re feeling.

Move your body.

Whether it’s a quick dance party or a walk around the block, moving your body helps you get out of your head and back into your body. This allows you to process whatever emotion you’re feeling with more clarity.


Everything is harder when you’re tired, including regulating your emotions. Everyone feels better after they take a nap, even if it’s just a quick one.

Organize and clean up.

Organizing or cleaning up helps get you out of your mind and into the physical world, giving you space from your thoughts so you can regain control of your mind and emotions.


Play a game or pretend, on your own or with a friend.

Quiet time.

Find a quiet spot where you can be alone with your thoughts and emotions, and properly process them.

Read a book.

Books are a healthy form of escape.

Sense your surroundings.

What do see, hear and smell? Try to feel the ground beneath your feet or the object in your hand. Use the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch) to bring you back into your body.

Take a bath or shower.

Showers and baths have an innate ability to calm the nervous system, reduce cortisol levels and promote relaxation.


Screentime can negatively affect your mental well-being. Put your phone/tablet down and turn off the TV. Spend at least a half hour screen time free.

Vent your feelings.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is not hold your feelings in anymore. Find a family member, friend or someone you trust and let out what’s weighing heavy on your mind.


Taking sips of water can help calm you down. How many sips of water can you take in a minute?

X-ray your feelings.

Take time to identify what you are feeling. Sometimes not knowing what you’re feeling is what makes the feeling hard to feel.

You time.

It’s OK to take space from others and spend time with yourself.

Zero in on a task.

Whether it’s a chore or a craft, put all of your focus on the task at hand.

Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital

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