Positive Coping Skills for Kids

elaina avalos, live well be well, coping skills for kids, ADHD, anxiety and kids,

I’ve missed a couple of “Wellness Wednesday” opportunities so I wanted to share a few more strategies or positive coping skills for kids – that may be useful to you as a parent – particularly if you have a child who may be struggling behaviorally or emotionally. I shared about dietary changes & kids, here.

Here is what helped us . . .

Essential Oils

I bought my foster son this essential oil necklace. I thought the “Superman” symbol was fitting. He loved it! As I mentioned in my previous post, I engaged him in the decision making process about what he would take with him to school.

I showed him his options and he picked this {my first choice too}. I also let him try out different essential oils so he could pick the ones he liked most. While I had a blend with Peace & Calming in it, he was not a fan at all. While he switched it up sometimes, he usually wanted lavender, lemon, and sweet orange or  lavender and lemon. He used to say that his friends would ask to smell his necklace sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚

This is the brand we used most consistently. You can read more about my essential oil journey, here.

We also diffused essential oils at night. My foster son’s favorite blend for sleep was lavender and Texas Cedarwood. We rarely missed a night – especially through the spring and summer months of 2018 as he adjusted to being away from one of his siblings.

Breathing & Mindfulness

This book gives kids great visual images to help them understand how to take it slow, breathe deep, and to be mindful about what’s happening inside of them, emotionally. This was a huge help to my foster son during first grade. I am grateful his teacher was working with him on these things.

Use of these techniques at school resulted in us using them at home. Because he loved to laugh and joke – we eventually joked about it at home – when he needed a reminder that he needed to slllloooowww down when he was getting anxious or bouncing off the walls.

I’d ask him, lightheartedly, “Do you need to go to your Zen {a word he used first} place?” He’d usually laugh, smile, or simply respond, “YES!” That was usually enough of a break in a challenging moment, that I could then remind him of his coping strategies. Eventually he got to a point where he’d just tell me, “I need to go to my Zen place.” And I’d ask what would you like to do – reminding him of some of the things that relaxed him.

When a child is melting down – or catches himself/herself on the way there – it’s so important to give them some of the power back as they think about how to cope with whatever has presented.

Now . . . there will obviously be those times when you have to intervene and your child no longer has choices {i.e., now you’re in time out}. But, my biggest goal with my foster son was to give him some power and choices – within the confines of our rules and safety, of course.

He’d lost all of that in his life. He felt he had no power. And no choices. Giving him the ability to make choices was powerful and contributed to drastic, positive changes in our home.

Find these, here.

Reminder/Affirmation Cards

My foster son struggled in school. It was rough. And while 2nd grade was significantly harder than 1st, one of the strategies that helped him in 1st grade and early in 2nd grade, was to provide him with visual reminders of some of the coping strategies that helped him collect his thoughts. Think lunchbox note but bigger . . .

As an example, we used laminated index cards with:

A Bible verse

Breathing reminders

Encouraging sayings

Reminders to pray

Reminders to go to his “Zen” place

In 1st grade he was allowed to keep the card on his desk which made a huge difference. He had the ability to see it there all of the time. It went a long way to helping him stay on track or find ways to get back on track.

Behavior Chart/Rewards

My foster son was very competitive with himself and the “color” system at school, while not a favorite of some teachers, was a huge motivator for him. I created a chart – similar to this one:

We used clothespins to move up or down the chart. If he woke up in the morning, on blue, due to getting through this nighttime routine on the best behavior, he got a “jewel” for his “jewel jar.”

We used these blue stones and put them in a cup – labeled as “__________’s Jewel Jar.” When he filled the cup with jewels, he could pick out a prize.


He loved having multiple visual reminders of how he was doing. His cup was on the counter so he could see it. His chart was on a cabinet in full view. There wasn’t any confusion for him – about what he was working toward and how he was doing. I know children who are responsive to consequences. That didn’t work for my kiddo. I had to approach everything from a direction of positivity. We had to talk about wins more than losses.

The more I focused on successes and good choices, the better things got. I know this may not work for every child. But with my foster son’s history and background – it was a huge deal.

While the spring/early summer of 2018 had been rough, by the time we got into a routine midway through the summer, there were multiple days in a row his clothespin didn’t move much from blue/green. When his behavior was increasingly getting more and more positive, I increased the stakes. Getting the prizes took a little more time and his “jewel jar” was changed into a small vase.

Note on color/behavior charts: I made a decision not to move him to yellow or red for a bad day at school, unless his behavior had been particularly egregious. He knew that even if he’d had a rough day at school, he would get a fresh start at home. This was important for him.

On days when he found himself in the yellow or red area – we would work on ways to get back to green/blue – employing the other coping strategies that we worked on at other times.


My son lived and breathed by routine. It wasn’t just that I kept up our routine – it’s that he craved that routine and would remind me, when we slipped up, of where we’d gone off track.

This was what his room looked like after bath time. ๐Ÿ™‚

The difference between my son when we followed our nightly/morning patterns and when we didn’t, was tremendous. He knew what to expect and when to expect it. He knew that if he got out of his bath on time, he’d have time to play with this trucks & cars {his favorite toys} before we read & prayed. He knew that if he got off track – he’d lose that. He knew that when the timer {he often set it himself} went off after dinner, it was time to go upstairs and take a bath/get ready for bed. Setting expectations {hello, even we need a little expectation management in our lives} and following routines was enormously helpful {even when I didn’t feel like it}.

These are just a few of the things we worked on, so they became habits, to help my foster son learn positive coping skills.

What are some of the strategies you have used, in your home?