How often do you recommend coping skills to teens and they never get used?
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy this is the behavioral part of the triangle. It’s the way that we help teens understand that a different response is possible to things that bother them, make them panic, or set them into a depressive spiral.
It’s the concept that a different response can lead to a different outcome in the environment and a different, and new, set of thoughts, feelings and choices.
The buy in?
If we do this enough we can massively impact our mood leading to decreased mental health difficulties and struggles!
Well… the tough part is that most teens I work with aren’t exactly lining up requesting a buffet of coping skills in which they are utilizing readily and with ease in times of stress. What I hear most often? “I forgot”.
And I get it. Their brains are at a stage where organization and executive functioning skills aren’t a well oiled machine, which leads to good intentions but stumbling a bit with the follow through.
So here comes the solution.
Something tangible. Something they can see, touch, and hold. An intervention I call a “New Mood Jar”. As in, I'm going to reach into this jar and pick out a new mood! Okay... let me explain!
First things first grab this FREE download for my New Mood Jar: 50+ Coping Skills for Teens. Hit print and have the teen assess the list of 50+ coping skills and activities and select the ones they are most likely to use when they are sad, anxious, angry or just dysregulated in general.
You can personalize the list by writing on the back of the prompts including listing favorite songs, movies, playlists, or podcasts they are committing to engage in. Then have the teen brainstorm other activities they can commit to doing when they are in a difficult mood and write them in the blank spaces.
Then you find a container. Any container will do.
You can select paints, glitter, or any other art supplies to decorate the container or jar or just leave it plain. Then, fold all of the regulation skills and put them inside the jar.
Next when a teen is in a upset, panicked, or depressive episode they select one of the activities out of the jar and commit to doing it! This is a playful way (that is full of surprises) to help teens engage in regulation activities when they might not have any ideas or are just plain apathetic!
Don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of the New Mood Jar: 50+ Coping Skills for Teens!
If you are looking for more support in your work with teens and tweens in the playroom check out my course Growing Out Of The Playroom: Teens and Tweens in Play Therapy!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,