Babies cry when they want to be held. Toddlers throw frustrated tantrums when things don’t go their way. Small children scream with glee when they are excited. All three are examples of innate emotional displays. However, for kids, learning to handle life’s rollercoaster of emotions can be tough. As a parent, you have the first opportunity to shape your child’s perspective on emotions. Just like an athletic coach teaches the fundamentals and skills to master a sport, an emotion coach teaches the ins-and-outs of managing strong emotions. Here are three ways to be an emotion coach for your kids.
- Teach Your Child About Different Emotions
Feeling emotions comes naturally. Knowing how to accurately describe those emotions may not. Children aren’t born with a word bank of descriptive terms that perfectly articulate how they feel. Because emotions can range from basic (happy, sad, angry, and afraid) to complex (proud, insecure, discouraged, etc.), parents have a responsibility to teach their kids how to articulate their inner feelings. Along with providing an extensive list of emotion words, offer support by hosting frequent and open conversations that help your children understand how to process, manage, and talk through their emotions.
- View Emotional Moments As Opportunities to Connect
It can be difficult to tend to every emotional moment that your child displays throughout the day. Especially if your little one hasn’t learned to control their responses to strong feelings (i.e. self-soothing, using their words, etc.). Still, it’s important to pay close attention to your child’s overt (and subtle) mood changes in order to foster teachable moments. If your child is troubled by stressful emotions, you can help by empathizing, modeling how to move through tough feelings, and brainstorming the next steps. Similarly, if your child is experiencing joyful emotions, you can help them verbalize, celebrate, and extend them.
- Validate Your Child’s Feelings
When your child experiences an emotion, you may not relate to the way they feel. From your perspective, their reaction may be excessive or irrational. And that’s okay. In spite of your differing viewpoint, you can still offer validation. To be a great emotion coach, validate your child’s feelings by:
- Practicing active listening
- Verbally summarizing what you’ve learned from their statements
- Accepting and normalizing their emotions
Emotional validation is important because it allows your children to feel heard and understood. It also reinforces that it’s perfectly normal to feel the way they feel. So, remember to be supportive by giving emotional reassurance during challenging times.
An important aspect of growing up is learning how to deal with big emotions. Without guidance, the process can be overwhelming. But with an effective emotion coach, children learn that complex feelings are a necessary part of life. The more comfortable children are with displaying and expressing their feelings, the easier emotion regulation becomes. So use these three tips to help you develop into the best emotion coach you can be.