People living with FASD often have difficulties with emotion regulation and require extra support in this area. Having discussions about which coping skills may work for your child, and creating visual reminders to be used in times of dysregulation, may help develop valuable skills for a young person with FASD. Janine Halloran, founder of Coping Skills for Kids, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and mother of 2, has kindly granted permission for NOFASD to reproduce her coping skills categories below. Coping strategies are usually more helpful in some situations than others. Janine has grouped these strategies by different coping needs.

Calming Coping Skills are designed to help you relax. For example:

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Grounding techniques
  • Think of your favorite place
  • Take a break
  • Positive self-talk

Distracting Coping Skills are designed to distract you and keep your attention when you might otherwise be focused on a certain stressor. A few ideas:

  • Doing something kind for someone else
  • Baking or cooking
  • Playing a game
  • Drawing
  • Writing a story
  • Plan a fun event

Physical Coping Skills are designed to help you rebalance your energy, either to energize you or to help you manage your excess energy in your body. Things kids can do:

  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Taking a scooter ride
  • Doing simple exercises
  • Going on a walk
  • Go swimming

Processing Coping Skills are designed to help you work through thoughts and feelings you have about challenging situations. Some suggestions:

  • Make a worry box
  • Write poetry
  • Use a journal
  • Use a feelings thermometer
  • Create a playlist to listen to

Sensory Coping Skills are designed to help kids calm down using their sensory systems, by doing things like:

  • Turning upside down
  • Using a body sock
  • Using a weighted item like a stuffed animal or a lap pad
  • Eating something crunchy
  • Using mermaid fabric

It’s important to have several different coping skills that you can use in a variety of settings. Different types of coping skills will work at different times. For instance, if your child’s coping skill is putting his head down and closing his eyes for a few minutes, that works great at home. But if he’s in the middle of English class, that will probably not go over too well.

It’s also important to try coping skills before passing on them. You never know what will resonate with your child. What doesn’t work at one time may work at another.

Sometimes, children need more explicit instruction to help figure out what works for them and what doesn’t. Or maybe they’re experiencing an incredibly challenging period of their life and need to add more coping skills to their repertoire to adapt. That’s when we, as the adults, try to teach them healthy ways to cope with their feelings.

How do I begin?

Start small – Identify one new coping skill to try per week. Have your child try it when they’re calm and see how it feels.

Don’t give up – Your child may try a skill and hate it. Don’t give up and think they won’t ever have coping skills. Try that skill again a few more times. And if they still hate it, move on to a different skill.

Begin with what they love – You know your child best. What do they enjoy? What do they love to do in their free time? Those activities are the beginning of making a good list of coping skills.

I encourage you to start a conversation with your kid about managing emotions and stress and ways to cope. They will benefit from knowing and using their coping skills!

NOFASD Australia thanks Janine Halloran for her permission to republish this valuable list of strategies. Janine founded Coping Skills for Kids which provides a wide range of information and resources including these Coping Skills Cue Cards.  

To read more blogs from NOFASD Australia click here.

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