My wife, Kristi, and I get to be foster parents to three amazing teenagers ages 14, 15, and 18. These three come to us with different backgrounds and experiences, but each of them has to deal with the things that have happened in their past, the triggers that exist in the present, and the anxiety about their futures. We get to work with each of their teams of clinicians and support staff to help them discover and access coping skills that work for them.
The same coping skill doesn’t work for each of them and they don’t have the same triggers. For one of them coping looks like taking a baseball bat and going ham on a cardboard box in the front or back yard. For another one, it’s often the ability to call one of their support people and have someone affirm their feelings and experience. For another kid, it’s doing deep breathing and mentally going to their safe place.
Listening to music, playing instruments, taking space, going for a walk—all of these are coping skills they call on at different times. Because life is stressful and difficult and they have to bear the weight of navigating this world that has, at times, been unkind to them.
But I think we have a lot to learn from these guys. They have already been practicing the skills they need for such a time as this. What if we all worked on practicing coping skills. What if, the next time you wanted to blow up at one of your family members, you took a walk instead? What if, rather than give someone a cold shoulder, you went to your safe place in your mind and then had a vulnerable and meaningful conversation with them from that state of mind? What if, rather than cramming your anger inside until it inevitably explodes, you took a baseball bat and crushed the life out of a cardboard box? What if, when you felt anxious and antsy, you put on your favorite album or playlist or blew the dust off of that guitar in the closet?
These are trying times. Don’t just say, “It’s fine,” and try to keep on trucking. Acknowledge those things that are deeply difficult right now and start building up and practicing your coping skills. I have a long way to go on this, but I find that when I do these things I am a better wife, partner, pastor, parent, and friend.
Stay well, friends.