STEPS TO EMOTION COACHING HOW TO HELP CHILDREN DEAL WITH BIG FEELINGS
Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
notice feelings Look for clues that might help you identify what they are feeling (verbal and nonverbal cues) e.g. angry face, clenched fists, stomping feet. Make sure you are tuning into your own emotional response by asking yourself 'how am I feeling?' and 'how do I appear to my child?'.
connect Think of this as an opportunity to connect with, and build a strong connection/relationship with your child. This may be an opportunity for skill building. Take their emotions seriously and be willing to understand their perspective. What might be the emotional need underlying the behavior? What issue are they struggling with?
listen Listen attentively - face them, get to their level - be with them in the moment. Show the child that you are listening and let them know that its ok to feel that way. If your child is having difficulty finding the right language to describe what is going on for them, be patient and look for meaning in what they can describe. Do not use this time to overload them with solutions or too much talk, the child needs to feel heard.
label emotions Label and validate your child’s emotions. Children often don't know what they're feeling. If you label an action - observe aloud that your child seems “angry” or “sad” or “disappointed” - you can help them to transform a scary, uncomfortable feeling into something identifiable and normal. For example "I can understand you might feel sad, it hurts to be excluded". It is also important to look out for not-souncomfortable emotions. For example: "I can see how excited you are".
set limits If necessary, set limits to the behaviour that resulted from the 'big feeling'. Remembering that all feelings are valid and normal, but there are certain behaviours that are not. It is important not to rush to this step too soon. While it is important to validate your child’s feelings, you do not have to validate their actions. Once you set a limit on inappropriate behaviour, follow through and be consistent. For example “I can understand why you might feel sad. It really hurts to be excluded, especially when you really wanted to go. Its ok to be sad, but it's not ok to hit".
Where appropriate, encourage your child to think up alternative solutions to a problem before you offer suggestions. For example: "What are some other things you could have done when you felt hurt by being left out?". This helps the child develop problem-solving skills. Be careful not to shoot down her solutions if they're not workable. Instead, ask questions that will help them see the outcome of their solutions. For example: "What might happen if you did that?"
rewards, praise and encouragement Be on the look out for when children are managing big feelings well and praise or reward them for their efforts. Identifying and responding to your emotions is a skill that needs to be taught and encouraged. Giving children encouragement and reinforcement for their efforts will see this skill continue to be developed! Resource developed by Beam Health.
A resource for parents or child professionals. How to help children deal with big feelings.