5 Activities for Teaching Coping Skills to Kids

I use a variety of mediums and tools for all of my counseling topics. For every type of  Social Emotional Learning topic (coping skills, social skills, empathy, etc.) that I am counseling students for, I try to mix it up and rotate activities from week to week. It is important to keep things novel, in my opinion, because children are smart, but get bored easily. As much as they like my games that I make and/or use, they would get bored if I played the same games every week or did worksheet packets…boring. 

I use everything from videos to card games, and coloring to iPad games. Yes, I am lucky enough to have been given an iPad by my district and have a few games that I like and use regularly. I also use worksheets that I typically make myself and games that I create because I really got tired of the same old stuff that I was way too expensive and never really got to the point. I just thought that I could do better.

1. Coping Skill Videos

I really like videos. Yes, it makes for an easier counseling session. But, with the perfect video, I feel like my session can

I really like to use videos for my counseling sessions every few weeks. Yes, it makes for an easier counseling session for the most part. But, with the perfect video, I can facilitate a therapy session that can be really productive. The right video is one that is specific to the age of the student, specific skill that they are in need of developing, and can help teach something novel.

There are a few reasons to use videos instead of just talking about a child’s issues or giving them a worksheet activity. The first is that it provides information that the student may have heard from you already…but in an entertaining format, such as cartoon, peer talking, a fun song, or an example of various situations.

Another reason to use videos is that kids like videos, and find it much more fun to watch a video than listen to a grown up (you) talk to them. Videos can also help facilitate discussion. When using a video as a counseling tool, I will occasionally pause the video and formulate a question related to my student to facilitate discussion.

Here is a sample (first page) of my collection list of 180+ SEL videos for many topics, including Coping Skills. It is available at the following link:

Social Emotional Learning Videos

2. Mindfulness specific videos and practice

If you haven’t stepped into the world of learning mindfulness meditation, you haven’t been in mental health too long. (Just kidding) What exactly is mindfulness? “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. … When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”

[https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition]

Worrying about the future or perseverating about events from the past are often what cause children (and adults) to experience anxiety and/or depression. Learning about mindfulness and having students practice it in their counseling sessions can help them to learn to focus on their bodies, thoughts, emotions, and breath in the present. This practice can, therefore, help them to calm their minds and bodies in a healthy way. But mindfulness definitely takes practice. In my counseling sessions I will start with teaching mindfulness through videos just on breathing techniques. Then I will have them practice the breathing strategy by closing their eyes and playing the video again. 

Other mindfulness activities include mindfulness coloring, yoga, and a visualization story. During mindful coloring, I will play some relaxing tunes and let my students pick a picture that they would like to color. Because my students are mostly boys, and often boys that have poor fine motor skills, I usually find easier coloring pictures online that I can copy and paste to a Word doc and then enlarge. I also have drawn myself a bunch of boy-themed mindful pictures myself with themes like Pokémon, Star Wars, and Skateboarding. Shh. Don’t tell Disney… I don’t know what the rules are on that type of thing. 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/10-KidsTeens-Mindfulness-Coloring-Star-Wars-Pokemon-skateboarding-etc-6426181

For kids Yoga and Mindfulness practicing videos, I will often use a video from Cosmic Kids. There is a website (https://cosmickids.com/) and an App I believe, but I just look up videos on YouTube. There are animal themed yoga videos, Minecraft themed, Holiday themed, and so on. There are also videos on how to defeat the “I can’t monster” and other coping strategies. Because I love the “I can’t Monster” video, I actually made a worksheet activities to go with it that I will use for Individual, Small group, and Classroom counseling or SEL presentations. It’s a fun lesson to help kids think about their negative thought patterns, so that they can identify their “I can’t monster” when he pops up and then “defeat him.”

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-I-Cant-Monster-Coloring-ActivitySelf-Monitoring-Negative-Thinking-6559059?st=4a30e3b583b32b2b72f67b7c9b429798

3. Coping skills specific games

Before COVID I had my trusty game of “Coping Skills BINGO” that was my go-to once every few weeks to teach and practice coping skills in counseling sessions with my students. I also had a CBT matching card game that was alright.  Once COVID started, and I was Zoom counseling from home, I quickly realized that only a small handful of my purchased games could be adapted to play via Zoom share screen. So, like the creator of games that I didn’t yet know that I was, I started making digital games that I could play with students using myshare screen. 

While a bit time-consuming to make each game, I have found them very helpful in targeting the specific concerns and coping skills that my students were lacking. Some of my games include the following: the “Wheel of Coping Skills game”, “The Coping Skills Card Game”, “Frustration Mountain”, the “Positive Thinking Game”, and the “Self-Esteem Card Game.” While these games work great for teletherapy counseling sessions, I have converted many of them to in-person games, where there is a game board and game cards because I have been back “in person” with all of my students for many months now. Below are some of my games and the links to purchase them if they sound like they would work for your students as well.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Frustration-Mountain-Teletherapy-Game-for-Elementary-Students-6680814?st=a0613bd3834d1b81ee7bdabe8344c19a
Digital Gameboard for Frustration Mountain

4. iPad games

iPad games for coping skills are a fun addition to teaching students about coping skills. My employer provided me with an iPad a few years ago and I have a few free and cheap games that I will use on occasion, usually with individual counseling. Having a video type game goes with my personal motto of the importance of keeping things novel and fun to encourage learning and engagement during counseling sessions.  For the really reluctant students, using the iPad for a few activities will help increase their participation and willingness to come to your office. The games/Apps that I use personally are listed below:

https://kids-coping-skill-puzzle-ios.soft112.com/
The Best Apps for Anxiety for 2022
https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/top-iphone-android-apps

5. Social Stories

Using social stories to teach coping skills should be determined based on the child’s developmental level. I would generally only use a social story for a child who is cognitively around 4 to 8 years old. However, the right social story can help a child who is having difficulty using strategies to manage their emotions. It’s just one tool of many, but for students with developmental disabilities, it can help them to understand their own emotions, how others might feel when they lose control of their emotions, and strategies for calming themselves. Multi-modal is the key to instruction, right?

I use a variety of mediums and tools for all of my counseling topics. For every type of  Social Emotional Learning topic (coping skills, social skills, empathy, etc.) that I am counseling students for, I try to mix it up and rotate activities from week to week. It is important to keep things novel, in…

I use a variety of mediums and tools for all of my counseling topics. For every type of  Social Emotional Learning topic (coping skills, social skills, empathy, etc.) that I am counseling students for, I try to mix it up and rotate activities from week to week. It is important to keep things novel, in…