I remember when my daughter was 12 and came home from school and had her first pre-teen, full-throated, emotional breakdown. She was sobbing so hard I could barely make out the words she was saying, let alone calm her down.
It made me nostalgic for the terrible twos, when I held her tight, told her to breathe deep, and that I was so sorry she was sad.
Then I realized, I had already taught her everything she needed to know back then.
By letting her have her feelings and showing her she was loved, she was able to move past the trauma. And through listening, validating her feelings and giving her a few hugs, she was able to move past it the next time as well.
Emotionally coached kids are happier adults
According to over 30 years of research by John Gottman, author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, emotionally coached kids tend to experience more positive emotions throughout life than negative ones.
He recommends three steps for emotional coaching your child:
- Label and validate their feelings
You need to first understand your child’s feelings and then communicate to them that you understand them. Offer statements like, “I understand you feel hurt because Molly didn’t invite you to her party. Is that what right?” Then you can validate those feelings by saying, “I would feel hurt too if a friend didn’t invite me to her party.”
- Address bad behavior
Sometimes if your child is angry and upset about something, the easiest places to take out those frustrations are on the people closest to him or her.
However, coming home, slamming doors, yelling and throwing a backpack across the room is not acceptable behavior. That’s why you need to set limits and teach your child how to behave even in the face of strong, negative emotions.
You can level with your child by saying something like, “It’s OK to be angry but it’s not okay to take it out on me, throw things or slam doors. Please go to your room for five minutes to calm down, and then we can talk about what’s going on.”
- Problem solve
Once your child is calmer, you can dig a little deeper and find out the cause of the problem and how to better handle things in the future. For example, if he or she has been feeling left out at school, acknowledge that you understand how bad it can be to feel isolated. Don’t tell your child how he or she should feel. Rather, validate his or her feelings by helping name them. At that point, you can brainstorm together some ideas on what your child can do if the problem arises again. Remember, the more of the solutions your child comes up with—the better.
Dr. Christopher Willard is a psychologist and learning specialist at Tufts University and an author of many books on the subject of mindfulness and children. In a recent interview with the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, Willard said:
“I think we are facing a crisis of disconnection—not only from others but also from our own experience and feelings. Although technology allows a form of connection, it also makes it too easy to disconnect from whatever is unpleasant in the moment.”
Emotional coaching prepares your child for the working world
According to a 2015 article in the Harvard Business Review, emotional coaching and helping develop your child’s emotional intelligence (EQ), will greatly help them in the workforce.
“Business leaders are beginning to recognize that how people manage their emotions matters to society’s economy. Nobel Laureate James Heckman writes that investment in children’s “non-cognitive” skills like motivation, perseverance and self-control—increases the productivity of the workforce.”
In other words, emotional intelligence matters in the workplace and affects how well we communicate with co-workers, manage stress, and develop leadership skills for the future.
Just another reason why emotional coaching can be a positive, life changing gift to give your child.
Read more parenting tips from our archives.
© Kmiragaya | Dreamstime.com – Sad teenage girl and her worried mother at home
Article reviewed May 2018 by Tara Cousineau, PhD.