Parenting: When to Cope-When to Heal

Lately the new “buzz word” in my field is teaching children “coping skills.”  Coping by definition:

Coping means to invest one’s own conscious effort, to solve personal and interpersonal problems, in order to try to master, minimize or tolerate stress and conflict.

I see it everywhere and here I’ll explain the difference in coping and healing; or why I (in this case) refer to coping as “applying a band-aid.”

Scratch or Gash

When you get a paper cut or skin your knee a band-aid is appropriate.  It’s a wound but it’s superficial, it hurt but it will easily heal in a day, maybe two; you can cope.

If you have a car accident and get seriously hurt or fall on a piece of glass and find yourself in a hospital emergency room that’s a different wound, it’s deep and it will take serious care and time to heal.  A band-aid isn’t appropriate; it could kill you; a great deal of care and healing must happen before you can cope.

Cope with It or Heal It

How does this relate to teaching coping skills and therapy…

Coping skills are recommended for a myriad of things; for “paper cut” type wounds, they’re stressful but given some time you can cope!  Things like:

  • New school/teacher
  • Aging
  • New job/job relocation
  • Broken heart

Teaching coping skills (applying a band-aid) to kids that have a deep wound versus getting to it and cleaning it up (pulling out that shard of glass) can kill them.  Things like:

  • Absent parent(s)
  • Abuse
  • PTSD
  • Trauma
  • Bullying

See the difference?  Is it a scratch or a gash?  What’s the level of care required?  A child shouldn’t be expected to “learn to” cope with (band-aid) and carry deep, hurtful wounds.

As an Example

My own personal story is an example that I’ve shared many times.  I grew up in a home with an alcoholic abusive father.  I learned to cope with it most of my life.  After making what I call “messes” in my adult life and running from the hurt of the deep wound I carried I decided to seek out the care it required and heal.  At 30 yrs. old I got the counseling and therapy I needed; I tore off the band-aid and cleaned it up once and for all.  I now live a healthy responsible life; my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

If you suspect your child is suffering from a deep wound, don’t teach him coping skills, get it cleaned up!  Do your homework, seek out a Licensed Professional Counselor and be specific that you aren’t looking for coping skills, you want healing!

As an additional resource, pick up a copy of my books “Saving Our Sons” and “Generation of Men,” both provide valuable insight to what boys need.