We all have to cope with life’s challenges, but some methods are healthier than others. In general there are two coping styles:
This type of coping involves an awareness of the problem or situation causing stress and conscious attempts to either reduce the resulting stress, eliminate the source of the stress, or both.
Avoidant coping may or may not be accompanied by an awareness of the problem, but there are no active attempts to reduce stress or eliminate the problem. Instead, those engaging in avoidant coping will ignore or avoid the problem altogether. They may be aware that there is a problem or they may be in denial about the problem (Good Therapy, 2016).
As you may have guessed, active coping is the most productive. In general avoidant coping is not helpful. The exception may be if a person is overwhelmed and they avoid for a short time. As long as the avoidant coping mechanism isn’t unhealthy (ex. Drugs/alcohol or other harmful addictive behaviors), it might be ok, but in the end we have to remember it still won’t solve the problem.
If your child is struggling with an issue – a problem with a friend, difficulty in school, an older child going through a break-up – brainstorm with them active and avoidant coping strategies. This will help your child understand why people engage in unhealthy coping, and also help them see there are lots of other options. Talk about which ones are easier. Often avoidant coping mechanisms are easier (anyone can take a drink of alcohol, it’s not a skill, right?). Discuss with your child the need to practice active coping skills because they often do require skill, but lead to much better outcomes. Explain that practicing the skill may be tough and take some time, but will be worth it in the end!