Coping Skills for Younger Students

One of the most frequent requests at school from teachers is to come help a child regulate during a hard moment. Many of the younger students just don't quite have the skills to calm their bodies in the moment and move on from little or big deals. All strategies don't work for all kids, and that's okay. Empowering kids to try new strategies so they can find what works for them is all part of the process. Keep reading to find more about helping kids calm down with these awesome coping skills for kids!

Helping Kids Calm Down
1 - Talking About Feelings

Gotta name it to tame it, right? Giving kids the vocabulary to recognize and label their feelings is so important. It's hard to calm down when you don't understand how you're feeling, after all. We spend time talking about what feelings feel like in our bodies, clues we might notice, and in general just the names of lots of feelings. When kids have the language to talk about their feelings, it's easier to choose an appropriate strategy to deal with them.

Fun ways to build emotional vocabulary:

Feelings BINGO

Feelings Play Dough Mats

Once kids have built up that emotional vocabulary, they can start to connect coping skills or calming strategies to those specific emotions! I love to have kids make feeling faces with play dough and then craft something from play dough that helps them when they feel that emotion:

Want to know more about helping kids calm down? Read more to find lots of helpful coping skills for little kids!
2 - Body Calming Strategies

The basics of calming the body - getting the heart rate down, slowing the breathing, and clearing the mind - can be taught early! Even the littlest learners can practice controlled breathing, forms of progressive muscle relaxation, and grounding techniques. Find more about teaching body calming strategies here. When I go in to help a child regulate in the moment in the classroom, I usually use a mirror strategy. I do the strategy and ask them to copy exactly what I do. Teaching younger kids about these strategies can feel a little abstract, but visuals really help! Try breathing guides like these to help them control and monitor their breathing:

Want to know more about helping kids calm down? Read more to find lots of helpful coping skills for little kids!
3 - Energy Exertion

Some feelings come with a lot of extra energy that feels like it needs to come out! When kids feel angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed, sometimes the best strategy is some sort of movement, pressure, or safe pushing to help them let go of some of that tension. Again, I use a mirror strategy when teaching these so kids can see exactly what I'm doing (which is a bit of a distraction strategy) and copy the movements to release tension. Some strategies to try:

  • Wall or tabletop pushups
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Going for a walk or jog
  • Biking
  • Squats or jumping jacks
  • Any safe, active movement kids enjoy!
  • Want to know more about helping kids calm down? Read more to find lots of helpful coping skills for little kids!
    4 - Positive Self Talk

    The words we say and think about ourselves make a big difference when it comes to calming down! Teaching kids about self talk early is a great way to help them respond to big feelings in the moment. When practicing self talk, it's important to help kids develop realistic phrases they can say to themselves, not just positive phrases that can set them up for frustration later. This might look like this:

  • Negative self talk: I can't do this!
  • Purely positive self talk: I’m the smartest! This is too easy and I'll get them all right!
  • Believable and realistic self talk: This is new and different. I will try my best. It's okay if I don't get them all right.
  • Want to know more about helping kids calm down? Read more to find lots of helpful coping skills for little kids!
    5 - Creativity

    Sometimes talking it out just isn't what's most comfortable for kids. Expressing their feelings and ideas through creativity can be a better fit. Drawing, doodling, painting, journaling, creative writing, and pottery are just a few of the creative outlets kids can use to express and manage their feelings! 

    Want to know more about helping kids calm down? Read more to find lots of helpful coping skills for little kids!
    6 - Calming Tools
  • Textured sensory toys
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Hoberman sphere (breathing ball)
  • Stress balls
  • Play dough
  • Sand timers
  • Weighted lap animals
  • Sequin pillows or animals
  • Read more about setting up a calm corner at home (or pass it along to parents at your school!)

    Want to know more about helping kids calm down? Read more to find lots of helpful coping skills for little kids!

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    Keep Reading: Fun Ways to Teach Kids to Calm Down:
    Printable & Digital Resources for Helping Kids Calm Down:

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    Want to know more about helping kids calm down? Read more to find lots of helpful coping skills for little kids! Teach kids to calm down with these coping skills for kids. Lots of coping skills activities for home or school. Calming strategies for kids that can be taught in school counseling or at home.

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