Bullying Prevention, Bullying Prevention for Kids 0-5, Coping Skills, Resiliency

Resiliency: Helping your child build healthy coping skills


I have worked as a  violence preventionist for about 9 years and I have formulated a lot of opinions on how to educate a child that will rarely use violence as a means of solving conflicts.

When I use the word violence, I mean it as a word in a  broader context than most people realize.  Words can be used as violence; when someone is yelling and using obscenities this can make people afraid, especially children.  When the words and the anger are directed towards a child, the child may shut down as a means of coping with the feeling of being unsafe.

I cringe inside when I hear caregivers tell their children to “shut up,” or add a few swear words. By doing this you have the makings of a violent encounter for the child.  If a child is exposed to this kind of behavior by the caregiver day in and day out, the child will begin to use anger and swear words as a means of controlling a situation or as an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Yelling and swearing is a way that people can cope with the feelings of frustration that is going on inside of them.  This type of behavior is what is called an unhealthy coping skill.

From the time we are born we respond to negative experiences in an unhealthy, or healthy way.  For instance, some people will use alcohol as a way of coping with the difficulties in life.  This is not necessarily a bad thing if alcohol is used in moderation.  I myself have come home after a difficult day at work and have had some drinks to “take the edge off.”  This can be a way of dealing with the feelings of frustration, anger, and hurt that has happened throughout the day.

The drinking becomes unhealthy when it negatively impacts you or those that surround you as you drink.  Children learn the most from what they see rather than what is “told” to them.  If as a caregiver your main coping strategy is to drink until you pass out, then the child will learn that coping strategy also.  It may not be alcohol that they child uses as they get older.  It could be any substance: cigarettes, marijuana, pills.

The same thing goes for physical violence if the child witnesses or is the receiver of the violent behavior, then they learn that kind of behavior is a way to cope with the frustrations of life.  Violence can also be used as a way of controlling a situation.  If I do not like the way you talk to me, I can hit you to stop you from talking to me that way.  Of course, this happens over a long period of time, but this kind of behavior becomes a part of the child’s coping strategy.

How do you help your child learn healthy copings skills?  By making sure that you as the caregiver have a large selection of healthy coping strategies to offset the unhealthy ones.  Everyone has unhealthy coping skills, biting your nails, overspending, yelling, you name it.  The goal is to have more healthy coping skills that you use then unhealthy ones.  It is important that your child see you use your healthy coping skills and that you educate your child in skills that they can use that they are comfortable with.

You can go to my first post in my blog and there should be a list of over 50 different ways that you can use to cope with the ups and downs of life.  The major healthy coping skills:

  1.  Exercise, this one is especially important if you or your child suffer from depression.  When you begin to exercise the body will release all of the “feel good” chemicals, like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphin.  Exercise has a way of distracting our thoughts, instead of thinking about all the bad things that happened in the day, exercise can clear your mind and give you a fresh new outlook on what is happening in the day.
  2. Meditation/Prayer is like exercise, it gives you the chance to clear your mind and think of good things rather than focusing on the negative things that happen to us in life.
  3. Reading for me was a way that coped with my childhood.  I had the ability to transport myself into the story and away from the dysfunctional events that were happening in my home.  I could literally be transported for hours at a time, enjoying the events of the book and forgetting about the things that made me sad inside.
  4. Spending time with healthy friends, people that you can trust to tell your innermost secrets and know that they will be kept in confidence.
  5. Spending time by yourself, and enjoying the solitude.

All of the above items are things that you can easily model for your children and help to give them ways that they can cope with the negative aspects of life.


Bullying Prevention, Coping Skills

A List of Safe Coping Skills

One of the essential foundations of bullying prevention is ensuring that your child has a toolbox filled with safe coping skills.

So what are coping skills and what is the difference between safe and unsafe coping skills?

Coping skills are those behaviors that we use to help us get through significant moments of stress or fear in our lives.  For instance, some of us use food to cope with stress when life seems to be getting out of hand.  This coping behavior can be both a safe or unsafe way of dealing with the pressures of life.  Sitting down and eating a whole bag of potato chips day after day will begin to take a toll on your weight and pocketbook.  After many years of using food to get through the situations in life, we may find that we have gained forty or fifty pounds of unwanted fat.  This would be an example of unhealthy coping behavior.

What we as adults and children need is a list of coping skills that are termed safe or healthy to get us through the stresses of life.  Having a long list of healthy coping skills helps to ensure that we will not have to turn to unsafe coping skills to get through difficult moments in life.

Instead of eating or drinking too much try using one or more of these behaviors:

  • Ask for help- Reach out to someone safe.
  • Inspire yourself- Carry something positive (poem) or negative (photo of a friend who overdosed).
  • Leave a bad scene- When things go wrong get out.
  • Persist- Never, never, never, never, never, never give up.
  • Honesty- Secrets, and lying are at the core of PTSD and substance abuse; honesty heals them.
  • Cry- Let yourself cry; it will not last forever.
  • Choose self-respect- Choose whatever will make you like yourself tomorrow.
  • Take good care of your body- Eat right, exercise, sleep, safe sex.
  • List your options- In ant situation your have choices.
  • Creating meaning- Remind yourself what you are living for: Your children?  Love? Truth? Justice? God?
  • Do the best you can with what you have- Make the most of available opportunities.
  • Set a boundary- Say “no” to protect yourself.
  • Compassion- Listen to yourself with respect and care.
  • When in doubt do what is hardest- The most difficult path is invariably the right one.
  • Talk yourself through it- Positive self-talk helps in difficult times.
  • Imagine- Create a mental picture that helps you feel different (Remember a safe place).
  • Notice the choice point- In slow motion, notice the exact moment when you chose a substance.
  • Pace yourself- If overwhelmed, go slower; if stagnant go faster.
  • Stay safe- Do whatever you need to put safety above all.
  • Seek understanding, not blame- Listen to your behavior, blaming prevents growth.
  • If one way does not work try another- As if in a maze, turn a corner and try a new path.
  • Link PTSD and substance abuse- Recognize substances as an attempt to self-medicate.
  • Alone is better than a bad relationship- If only people who are receiving help are safe for now, that is okay.
  • Create a new story- You are the author of your own life; be the hero who overcomes adversity.
  • Avoid avoidable suffering- Prevent bad situations in advance.
  • Ask others- Ask others if your belief is accurate.
  • Get organized- You will feel more in control with lists, to do’s and a clean house.
  • Watch for danger signs- Face a problem before it becomes huge; notice red flags.
  • Healing above all- Focus on what matters.
  • Try something, anything- A good plan today is better than a perfect tomorrow.
  • Discovery- Find out whether your assumption is true rather than staying “in your head.”
  • Attend treatment- AA, self-help, therapy, medications, groups- anything that keeps you going.
  • Create a buffer- Put something between you and danger (time, distance)
  • Say what you really think- You will feel closer to others ( but only do this with safe people).
  • Listen to your needs- No more neglect- really hear what you need.
  • Move toward your opposite- For example, if you are dependent, try becoming more independant.
  • Replay the scene- Review a negative event; what can you do differently next time?
  • Notice the cost- What is the price of substance abuse in your life.
  • Structure your day- A productive schedule keeps you on track and connected to the world.
  • Set an action plan- Be specific, set a deadline, and let others know about it.
  • Protect yourself- Put up a shield against destructive people, bad environments, and substances.
  • Soothing talk- Talk to yourself very gently (as if to a friend or small child).

From Seeking Safety: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa Najavits, Ph.D.

Bullying Prevention, Bullying Prevention for Kids 0-5, Coping Skills, Uncategorized

Being the Change Requires Courage

Thanks for joining me in my quest to change the world, one person at a time, starting with me.

Being the change in the world is not an easy task, in fact, it requires great courage to go against the status quo.  Being the change means learning patience at times when patience is the last thing you want to deal with.  When getting angry and blowing up feels so good at the moment, and you want to justify that that person deserves it.

I stumbled into bullying prevention as a career when our counties domestic violence agency received a grant to implement a bullying prevention program at our local elementary school.  My family had moved to the small rural county of Mariposa, California, fleeing from the influx of people moving into the Central Valley due to the housing boom.

I was hired to implement a bullying prevention awareness program and it changed my life forever.  It was like the heavens opened up and I finally realized this is what I had been looking for all my life.  It started me on the path of non-profit work and specifically working with youth, teaching them how to advocate for themselves.

Here I am almost nine years later and I want to share my knowledge with all those looking for answers.  Dealing with violence is deeply traumatic and complex, there are little fast and hard rules.  But there is hope, you can effectively navigate the terrifying waters of unsafe behaviors and teach yourself or your children how to stand against violence.

I’m glad you have landed here, you are safe and I welcome you to my site.


“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” Steve Maraboli