Be the emotional coach that your child needs

Parents and caregivers are the most important people in their child’s life no matter what age they are.. Psychologists spend a very short time compared to how much time you spend with your child.

As adults, sometimes children and teenagers can seem upset about the most trivial things. We may dismiss their emotions, saying they will ‘get over it’ or that it ‘could be worse’. While this can be an automatic response when we are tired, frustrated, or stressed, this is not what they want to hear.

The bond between parents and children strengthens when parents help their kids feel validated, self-regulate, make sense of their emotions, and calm down. It’s not about fixing the emotion; rather, it’s about being supportive and validating.

You can help your child to name their emotions and make sense of why they are happening with emotion coaching.

When can emotion coaching be useful?
Emotion coaching proves beneficial in several situations, such as when your child begins to exhibit feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, or disappointment. It can also be applied effectively during tantrums, instances of bullying, or any friendship or relationship challenges that your child might face. Additionally, emotion coaching isn’t just for challenging times—it can also be used when your child is experiencing joy or excitement.

Steps to take to be your child’s emotional coach!

1. Calming yourself first and noticing the following:
• What are you thinking and feeling?
• What are you needing or wanting?
• What might your child be thinking or feeling?
• What might your child be needing or wanting?

Connect with your parenting values – what kind of qualities do you want to show? For example being caring, supportive, a good listener, and kind.

2. Empathise with your child’s feelings and needs.
Let them know calmly that you notice how they are feeling. For example, “I can see how disappointed/frustrated/upset/(insert feeling) you are. It seems that you want/need/wish (insert want/need/wish)…”

3. Check in and listen
Check in to make sure that you’ve got it right. For example, “Does that sound right to you?”

4. Show understanding
You can show your child that you understand by validating their feelings. When validating feelings, you are recognising, acknowledging and accepting their feelings as being important and legitimate. It helps your child not only feel understood but also creates a safe place for them to talk with you.
For example, “It makes sense why you’re upset… (insert details about what you’ve heard), ‘I would be upset too if this happened to me. Is there anything else going on?”

5. Problem-solve together when both calm
For example, “What do you think might help?” or “Would you like a hug?”.
Emotion coaching can be used for young children, all the way up to teenagers and even validating other adults! The only difference may be how you word things. Children and teenagers may need more assistance labelling their emotions.

Don’t feel discouraged if you guess the wrong one, we’re not going to get it right every time, and this gives the child an opportunity to tell you how they’re actually feeling and helps you to deepen your understanding of your child’s experience.

If you would like some support in implementing these skills, or you would like to build some further strategies to support your child, teenager or young adult ring us – 02 4244 5636.

Written by Stacey Van Der Meer

Stacey is a Provisional Psychologist completing the final year of her Clinical Master’s. Stacey works with children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety, depression, adjustment disorder, elevated stress levels, personality disorders, and other mental health issues. She is also able to complete cognitive and academic assessments.

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