Coping Skills Role Play Ideas

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Learning coping skills is as important as learning any other skill. This lesson reviews some ideas on how to facilitate role-playing scenarios to develop proper coping skills in school-aged children.

Coping Skills Role-Playing

Role-playing is a great way to help students practice how they might respond in stressful situations. As with any skill, appropriate coping skills must be practiced and trained to be available in the moment that they are needed most.

If students wonder why they need to practice how they might feel and react in different circumstances, you might remind students that even emergency responders practice how to respond: they role-play different scenarios of emergencies so that if one occurs, they are already familiar with what to do and how to do it. Social scenarios are no different. The more you have practiced how to respond in difficult situations, the more comfortable and confident you will be if a similar scenario arises.

This lesson will review two methods of encouraging students to role-play coping skills in a safe and controlled environment. The lesson also covers general categories for role-playing scenarios, as well as some specific scenario suggestions.

Methods for Role-playing

There are two main methods of role-playing: one scenario at a time with whole-class involvement or multiple scenarios at once with small-group involvement.

One at a Time

A great way to really allow students to get quite a lot out of each role-playing scenario is to conduct one role-playing scenario at a time using the entire class. You will need to select students to participate actively in the role-playing scenario while the others watch. Within the role-playing students, you will need at least one antagonist, at least one target, and active witnesses/bystanders. The rest of the class should act as passive witnesses (as if watching on TV). This method is particularly useful if there is a specific concern that needs to be targeted toward the entire class. It affords large class discussion after viewing the role-playing scenario.

Multiple Scenarios at Once

In this method, small groups can be assigned a scenario to act out amongst themselves. Within the small groups, you may want to consider including the same active participant roles as used with the previous method. The difference in this method is that the class as a whole will not see each scenario, thus class discussion is reduced. This method can work well to introduce many different social scenarios to students in a casual manner. You can even set time limits for scenarios and small group discussion, and then ask students to pick another scenario and go again.

Points to Remember

In any role-playing scenario, it's important that you encourage students to begin the scenario after any aggression or other distressing action may have taken place. Do not ask students to role-play aggressive behavior toward each other.

It's also a good idea to try to cast students in roles that contradict their natural personalities. This helps students begin to see things from other's perspective. Carefully consider the scenarios chosen for each student.

Finally, consider age appropriateness when selecting scenarios. The scenarios offered in this lesson are for varying age groups. Many can be adjusted to suit any age group, some cannot.

Follow-up Discussion

After performing role-playing scenarios, it's a good idea to have students discuss the scenario. The discussion should cover how each participating student felt in their part, how it felt to witness the scenario, and a review of the action in the scenario. Students should offer suggestions for how the scenario could go differently with different actions.

Scenario Ideas

Consider having your students anonymously submit their own ideas for coping skills scenarios. In this way, students that have a specific need will feel safe asking for help and then witnessing how others have dealt with or would deal with a similar situation.

Generally, you may want to consider including scenarios about relationships, personal identification, bullying, social media, and reporting behaviors.

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