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Identify your students coping mechanisms to connect with them and reduce bullying

“The impulse to eschew the unpleasant leads to avoidance; avoidance leads to aversion; aversion leads to fear; fear leads to hatred; hatred leads to aggression.’


In the 80’s Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman (both PhD and teachers in Berkeley) coined the terms problem-focused coping (directly changing the elements of the stressful situation), and emotion-focused coping (dealing with stress by regulating one's emotions). They created the primary and secondary appraisal theory which we implement in schools throughout our program


Stress, Appraisal and Coping

Stress is a feeling experienced when a person perceives that the “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize”, it is a psychological individual perception of danger. School is the place where students can feel stressed or calm, where we can cultivate how we perceive life and build the coping tools we will need to succeed in our professional, academic or personal lives. 


But it all depends on who we are relying on, who we relate to and what tools do we have available to cope. For instance, as a response of “I got a bad grade” our first instinct will be to think what does this situation mean for me? And we will have three options: (1) not care, (2) good, or (3) stressful (bad).


To such events, we will put a significance such as. 

  • Positive ones: “I can do it if I do my best”, “I will try whether my chances of success are high or not”, and “If this way fails, I can always try another method” indicates positive secondary appraisal. Or;

  • Negative ones: “I can’t do it; I know I will fail”, “I will not do it because no one believes I can” and, “I won’t try because my chances are low”.


And it will depend on how we learn to cope. So, how can we learn to own our outcome? 


How do we keep track of students' triggers?

Common events in our early childhood that we may not even remember could trigger an emotional response that swamps our rational brain’s ability to override our limbic system (memory, emotion, and stress response). Sometimes it can be functional, or many times it can be dysfunctional. For instance, if we experience anger and use our energy to organize a social action our response will be functional. But if we hurt ourselves or others it will be dysfunctional. 


So as teachers, counselors, headmaster or directives how can we understand why our students are triggered? 

There are common triggers:

  1. Feeling misunderstood or contradicted.

  2. Lacking control in a situation.

  3. Feeling that someone is upset with us.

  4. Feeling disrespected or that an injustice occurred. 

  5. Being excluded.

  6. Tiredness.


And there are common reactions:

  1. Blame and/or resentment.

  2. Sadness and lethargy.

  3. Passive-aggressive comments.

  4. Insulting or harming the other person.

  5. Avoiding eye contact.

  6. Interrupting.


Learn which apply to your students and when.


Take care of difficult emotions

Learn to see the world as the student sees it, and learn and teach to take care of difficult feelings. 


  1. Do not stop nor deny the discomfort.

  2. Do not flood on fear and sadness as it can lead to a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness

  3. Pain and resistance is equal to suffering. Acceptance makes it hurt less. Acknowledge that this conflict is a part of your experience in this moment. 

  4. Let it RAIN: Recognize them, allow them, investigate them, and nurture them. Acknowledge the feelings (Hi, anxiety; i see you).

  5. Expect and accept strong emotions. 

  6. Tell a story of what happened. When something scary and upsetting happens, children need help processing their emotions. Telling the story will help the brain to not become flooded by the emotions. 


Pd: A conflict “solved” in a negative way can leave the students feeling weak, isolated and incapable. So, how we talk to our students after their mistakes can shape whether they shrink or grow from the experience. If we are harsh and critical then that’s the outcome our students will come out with. Be empathetic, kind and compassionate, learn to listen and do not threaten them. Be non judgemental, and understand the student feelings.


How do we understand how they cope?

Next 4 weeks we will be exploring the four (4) personality types or characters that we will see in our students.


The avoider, the independent, the lonely, and the impulsive one. 




Emotions dictionary

  • Anger - a demeaning offense against me and mine.

  • Fear - facing an immediate, concrete, and overwhelming physical danger.

  • Sadness - having experienced an irrevocable loss.

  • Disgust - taking in or being too close to an indigestible object or idea (metaphorically speaking).

  • Happiness - making reasonable progress toward the realization of a goal.

  • Shame - feeling of badness about the self (destructive and doesn’t help us change our behavior)

  • Guilt - a feeling of “conscience” from having done something wrong or against our values (helpful and adaptive)







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