Become Your Child’s Emotion Coach

15 07 2013

Posted in Parenting Presc… by Julie Hanks, LCSW on Jun 27, 2013

As a parent, I often find it easier to focus on my children’s physical necessities (food, shelter, clothing, grooming) and social requirements (education, relationships) than on their emotional needs. Emotions are a lot harder for them to express directly, so children often give indirect clues about their feelings through their behavior.
As a therapist, I understand the crucial role that emotions play in our lives. But when I was a new mom and my own children expressed intense emotions in the form of tantrums, screaming, or withdrawing, it was challenging to help them work through it. I tried hard not to shame them or to dismiss their emotions, but I also didn’t want their intense emotion to dictate my mood.
When I came across the work of Dr. John Gottman and his book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child several years ago, I remember thinking, “This fits with what I intuitively knew about parenting and it describes the parent I want to be!” It provided a framework to help me more effectively help my children understand and express emotions in healthy and productive ways.
According to Dr. Gottman’s research, emotionally intelligent children are better able to regulate their emotions than other kids. They also calm their heart rate more quickly after being upset, can focus their attention more effectively, have healthier peer relationships, and perform better academically. (And they have fewer infections.) Sounds good, doesn’t it? The best way to help your children achieve this kind of emotional health is to adopt an “emotion coaching” parenting style.
Dr. Gottman’s 5 Steps to Emotion Coaching:

1. Be aware of your child’s emotions
2. View emotional expression as opportunity for teaching and intimacy
3. Listen, empathize, and validate your child’s feelings
4. Label emotions in words your child understands
5. Help your child come up with solutions or ways to manage emotions

– Julie Hanks

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