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What to Do if You Come Up Short on Coping Skills

“Parents learn a lot from their children about coping with life.” – Muriel Spark, Scottish novelist, biographer, author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1918-2006)

Being around children, especially small children, for any length of time is an experience in adaptability. For one thing, children have a voracious curiosity, a zest for life that’s unfettered by the kind of self-restraints and self-censoring we heap upon ourselves as we get older. We’ve learned, mistakenly, from others that our thoughts are the right ones, or we’re easily persuaded to another’s way of thinking without challenging whether its’ good for us or not.

Watch children at play and see their boundless enthusiasm, their inventiveness, their creative genius in coming up with all kinds of solutions to various puzzles and situations. They don’t know the meaning of no at this young age. That comes later. Of course, learning when not to do something that harms us is an important life lesson, but that’s not what we’re referring to here. What we’re looking at is the capability of children to cope with just about anything life throws at them.

At least, that’s what Muriel Spark believed. Is it true? Can we learn from children, our own or someone else’s, about what to do if we come up short on coping skills? First, we have to be willing to learn. We can’t close our minds to the possibility that there’s another solution out there to our problem or situation. We should enlist the support of others who’ve dealt with such problems, such as our 12-step group members and sponsor. Learn from the best, adapt what works to our own circumstances, and be flexible in mixing and matching this technique or strategy with one that worked fairly well for us but may need modification.

If we can see how to connect the dots, we can learn. If we can squelch our inner voice that tells us it can’t work and give our minds the opportunity to see how it can work, we can learn. If we discuss solutions to how to deal with cravings and urges, how to overcome triggers, we can learn. If we can listen, we can learn. If we can model the behavior of others, we can learn.

If we’re paying attention, we can see a pattern forming here. It all has to do with learning. We should embrace learning new things and be in constant pursuit of knowledge. There’s always something new in the field of recovery. We may hear about it in the rooms or research it ourselves. Keep our eyes and ears open and our mind willing to accept that there’s something that we can use, adapt or modify, to help us get more proficient in our coping skills.

Also, we need to give ourselves time to practice our new skills. Nothing succeeds like success, and the more we practice time-proven techniques and strategies, the better we will be at coping.

Posted on April 22nd, 2011

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