Emotional Coaching & Kids
What is Emotional Coaching?
In emotional coaching, parents or caregivers help children name and accept their emotions. By virtue of acknowledging what kids are feeling by accurately naming their emotions (i.e., I see that you are upset, frustrated, lonely, worried, anxious, excited, elated) negative feelings are released, allowing the child to move on. In fact, if a child is angry, in order for him/her not to feel angry anymore, it is necessary that their being angry first be acknowledged and accepted. Oftentimes adults deny what children are feeling, or tell them not to feel something - which only pushes what children are feeling deeper inside where it can cause mental or physical harm. Remember that all feelings are allowed and acceptable; it is certain behaviors which are not allowed or acceptable.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand one's feelings, to be able to manage one's feelings in the face of life's setbacks and challenges, and to relate empathically to the feelings of others. Research indicates that high emotional intelligence leads to more personal happiness, better mental health, better physical health, greater academic performance, and more successful professional functioning. Child caregivers can play a vital role in helping kids become more aware of their emotions and in developing their emotional intelligence.
Example of Emotional Coaching
If a child is crying and upset because his favorite toy has broken, as an adult, you want to teach the child that this is not the end of the world. However if tell a child straight away: "Don't cry; it's not the end of the world," or, "Calm down; we will buy you a new toy," in all likelihood the child will respond by crying even louder. Your telling a feeling to 'go away' only causes the feeling to dig in deeper. Instead, you want to validate the child's feelings using emotional coaching, such as saying: "I see how sad/upset you are that your favorite toy broke! I can tell you really want to play with it right now." The more empathically and accurately you can name a child's feelings, the sooner and more completely will the feeling 'clear,' allowing the child to return to a level of stability and calmness. At this point you can help the child come up with solutions to the problem at hand.
One golden rule of emotional coaching is to never use the word "but" when validating a feeling, as it effectively erases the entire message. For example, avoid saying: "I see how upset you are that your favorite toy broke, but it's not the end of the world; we can buy another one just like it." Remember also that making a child happy is not the goal of emotional coaching; rather, we want to give children a set of skills whereby they can learn to manage their distresses by learning how to name their feelings, which will ultimately help them develop into well-adjusted and high-functioning older children and adults.
"Shades" of Feeling Words
In order to maximize the effect of emotional coaching and the naming of children's emotions, it is best to keep on hand an entire glossary or list of "feeling words" which include not only the standard words we tend to use again and again (happy, sad, glad, mad, scared), but a words which describe 'shades' of emotions, such as: calm, peaceful, excited, disappointed, hurt, lonely, insulted, embarrassed, unsure, hesitant, bored, curious, interested, anxious, annoyed, worried, terrified, furious, panicked, and more. With such an expanded vocabulary of feeling words at their fingertips, both children and adults will be able to better manage, process, and clear negative emotions throughout their lives.
4 Additional Benefits of Emotional Intelligence
Here some additional benefits of helping children develop emotional intelligence:
•1) Kids become more sensitive to the feelings of others
•2) Kids are better able to connect with other people
•3) Improves children's listening skills
•4) Children are better able to resolve conflicts peacefully instead of resorting to problematic physical behaviors such as hitting, kicking, punching, etc.
Finally, there are many fun ways to teach children all about feeling words. Search the Internet for a variety of creative activities and games which help children learn to identify and name facial expressions and feelings.