Healthy Coping Skills for Teenagers

If you’ve seen my post 7 Ways to Have a Better Relationship with Your Teenager, then you may already know that teenagers are biologically predisposed for risk taking behaviors and issues with inability to effectively control their emotions. This makes the teens we love and care for particularly vulnerable to engaging in self-harm, drug use, promiscuity and suicidal thoughts and actions.


As parents and caregivers of teens, we have to be able to recognize that these are issues that MOST TEENS experience, regardless of whether or not they meet criteria for a DSM-5 diagnosis, so that we can learn to help them cope with their BIG EMOTIONS in a way that is healthy and productive for them.


Teens who experience significant mental health symptoms of anxiety, depression, mood instability, and aggression are the most in need of emotional co-regulation, and learning to “ride the wave” of emotional distress that may be contributing to their unhealthy behaviors. Often when in the midst of unhealthy behaviors and coping skills, teens need someone to remind them to use some healthier ways to manage their emotions.


As your reading through some of my suggestions for teen coping skills, keep in mind that there is no one size fits all. One teen may benefit from self-soothing while another may prefer physical exertion as way to “blow off steam.” Always get your teens input about what they or peers have used as healthy coping skills that have worked in the past or new skills from this list that they may be willing to try. This list is far from exhaustive. Get creative and come up with some of your own!


Self-Soothing Coping Skills for Teens

·       Taking a warm shower or bath

·       Wrap in a blanket and sip hot tea, cocoa or cider

·       Listen to music that makes you feel happy and carefree

·       Give yourself a present

·       Write down 5 things you would say to someone you love if they were hurt, and say those things to yourself

·       Take 5 minutes to focus only on your breath, breath slowly in and out through your nose

·       Call a friend and just talk about things you like

·       Read a good book

·       Remember a happier time with friends, family, or others.

·       Practice Mindfulness

·       Spend time in Nature


 Distraction Coping Skills for Teens

·       Watch a candle burn

·       Take a cold shower

·       Eat something very sour or spicy

·       Smell something you enjoy (candle, perfume/cologne, etc.)

·       Think of as many things as possible in one category (dogs, musical instruments, sports teams, etc.)

·       Write down 5 things you are grateful for, or that life would be a lot harder without.

·       Play a game

·       Do something for someone else

·       Cook using a recipe

·       Play with a pet


 Expressive Coping Skills for Teens

·       Journal about your emotions and experience

·       Dance

·       Sing

·       Create music, art, or poetry to express feelings

·       Color or draw

·       Cry

·       Splatter/drip paint



 Self-Care Coping Skills

·       Paint your nails

·       Go for a run

·       Get a haircut

·       Exercise

·       Take a nap

·       Schedule time for yourself everyday

·       Go out and be around people, especially if you don’t “feel like it.”

·       Do something that makes you laugh-find humor in unexpected places.

·       Spend time learning a new hobby or dive back into an old one

·       Engage in spirituality, read the Bible or other Holy Text

If your teen has expressed excessively sad or hopeless feelings, or has engaged in self harm, please reach out to a licensed mental health professional. Email me, to schedule an appointment.