Encouraging healthy coping behaviours

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Encourage healthy coping behaviours in your teen with these expert tips.

Key points

  • Reinforce and strengthen positive behaviours, through the use of praise and attention.
  • It may be difficult, but avoid reinforcing negative behaviour in your teenager.
  • Set a positive example for your teenager by modeling positive coping skills.

It's important for parents to encourage healthy coping behaviours in their teenager. Use positive reinforcement of good behaviour, model positive coping skills and avoid reinforcing negative behaviour.

You have some great opportunities to help your teenager manage their JIA and flares. Reinforce and strengthen positive behaviours, through the use of praise and attention. For example, giving your teenager praise for a job well done on completing their homework will encourage that behaviour.

Avoid reinforcing negative behaviour. This may be difficult to do, especially during a flare. For example, you may decide that you do not want your teenager to help out with any chores at home because they are in pain. This is a form of negative reinforcement because responsibilities that were likely not fun were removed because of pain. To avoid this form of negative reinforcement, when your teenager is in pain, you could modify their chores. For example, when doing the laundry, you or one of your other children can carry the clothes and your teenager can help by folding them.

Instead of reinforcing negative behaviours, try to reinforce positive coping behaviours. For example, notice and praise your teenager once they have completed their daily physical exercises or if they have practiced using relaxation. Try saying, “I know your knees were really hurting you this morning, but I’m proud of you for finishing your exercises!”

Model positive coping skills

Children imitate their parents’ behaviour all the time. As they get older, teenagers can learn both positive and negative behaviours from their parents in this way. Learning through observation is called modeling.

The coping strategies that you use can be picked up by your teenager. You can help them learn positive stress or pain coping strategies by using these strategies yourself. Talk about things you do to cope with stress or pain. For example, you might cope with stress by talking to someone you trust, going for a jog or taking a hot relaxing bath. Your teenager can learn from the strategies that work well for you.

Talking through a problem can help your teenager understand the process behind the behaviour. You know that talking about a problem or stressor with someone you trust can help you sort out your feelings. It can help you find ways to reduce the stress or resolve the underlying problem. You can discuss these scenarios with your teenager. It will help them learn why it is important to talk about their problems.

Last updated: January 31st 2017