The character Forrest Gump, in the movie of the same name, provided as good an explanation for life as any: “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” That attitude is common in those with good coping skills. But not everyone is like that. Some families run their household in a similar way to the biggest drama queens from high school: everything is a crisis.
Life happens, but what makes a difference when negative events occur is how you react. Typical stressors include illness, injury, financial problems, moving, job loss and a demanding toddler. Ineffective coping is characterized by poor communication, an inability to resolve conflicts, poor problem-solving, a lack of emotional support, intolerance and dependency. Children pick up on what you put down, so to speak. If you’re unhappy and negative, you will not be as effective a parent as you could be. Plus, children watch you and often mimic your behavior. If you don’t provide a loving and balanced household, your child might not develop a healthful self-image.
A person with poor coping skills who’s dealing with a crisis and has a small child to boot might have created a dangerous mix that can lead to child abuse. When a parent who is stressed and isn’t coping well with life is then confronted with a demanding or unhappy toddler, she might snap and hurt her child. The Child Welfare Information Gateway found that the best way to prevent child abuse is to help parents develop coping skills. They need to use available resources, such as taking a class to learn positive parenting skills or joining a support group, to protect their children.
Children Who Can't Cope
Children who grow up in a house where parents lack coping skills won’t learn suitable coping skills themselves. This often creates angry children who react to conditions by clenching their fists, turning red in the face, having frequent tummy aches and displaying withdrawn behavior. These children might later blame others for their unhappiness. Children like that often feel rejected, hurt, frustrated, misunderstood and ashamed. Children need to be taught problem-solving and coping skills to learn to be emotionally stable, and if you lack coping skills, you can’t teach them.
People who lack coping skills often turn to drugs and alcohol to get them through tough times. This has negative consequences for children in two ways: Parents who abuse drugs and alcohol are ineffective parents at best but could also be dangerous or neglectful. And, children of alcoholics or drug abusers are eight times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, too, according to a 2012 article at Science.com. The good news is that children as young as 4 years can improve their flexibility and self-control when taught how.