Skip to content
Back to Blog

How Coping Skills Can Help Your Child Manage Stress

healthy coping skills for stress

Whether your child is completing their academic program or is preparing to study abroad in the U.S. for the first time, they likely are experiencing varying degrees and forms of stress. For adolescents—especially in our post-pandemic world—having access to and understanding healthy coping skills is critical. When a situation feels painful or overwhelming, students may default to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as:

  • avoidance—attempting to avoid a stressful situation; 
  • misdirected anger—using rage or aggression to mask sadness or release other difficult emotions; 
  • social media overuse—as a distraction from painful feelings;
  • substance abuse—as self-medication for anxiety, trauma, or depression;
  • self-harm—as a way to release feelings of pain, tension, and anxiety; and
  • disordered eating—as a form of self-control when teens feel out of control.

Healthy alternatives to handling stressful situations give students a better way to process what they’re experiencing. The more they practice healthy coping skills, the more they see how effective and positive these tools can be.

Here are some techniques you can introduce to your child.

Healthy Coping Skills

While there are many approaches for coping, the most effective generally help a person approach rather than avoid the source of their stress. Here are the top five strategies.

Problem-Focused Coping 

This involves taking direct action and works best when a child is dealing with a very specific, solvable problem (as opposed to unfocused anxiety or stress). 

In these cases, encourage your child to learn as much as they can about the situation and seek people who can support them in finding a solution. This could be a family member, school counselor, advisor, or faculty member. Another strategy is to break down their problem into manageable pieces or elements, and address each of them one step at a time. 

Emotion-Focused Coping

Your child’s reaction to their thoughts and feelings plays a significant role in whether they think a situation is stressful. Here are three emotion-focused coping strategies your child can use to manage their response.

  • Breathing and relaxation practices: Slow, deep breathing has an immediate soothing effect and regulates the nervous system.
  • Creative expression: Music, art, or dance can help your child process their emotions productively and positively.
  • Movement: Engaging in any form of activity—walking, playing a sport, stretching—provides a physical release of emotions, and can help your child focus on something other than the immediate situation.

Social Support

Turning to others is one of the most helpful coping skills when handling a problem or stress. Encourage your child to connect with a close friend, a parent, or a trusted adult. 

Reframing the Issue

This approach involves taking a new perspective on a situation. In conversation, try looking at the circumstance from a different view to see positive or meaningful aspects. Another way to do this is through journaling—encourage your child to write down their feelings or write out the situation, as this can help bring perspective and make sense of what they’re experiencing.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact for more information.