This month, I thought I would give you an example of how I do emotion coaching.
I don’t follow a set formula, I go with what is happening at the time. The most important part is that you acknowledge your child’s feelings, stay with her whilst she is upset, and support her to move on when she is ready.
Scene: My youngest son accidently washed a Christmas beetle down the sink. He loves all creatures, and has a compassionate heart. I heard a wail from the bathroom, and him screaming that he had killed the beetle.
Me: You are so sad about the Christmas beetle getting washed down the sink (noticing the emotion).
He headed towards me and leapt into my arms for a hug.
He continued to cry and lament the death of the Christmas beetle. This boy has big emotions.
Me: You are so, so sad. You are worried that it has died. You wish it hadn’t happened. You are crying. (Reflecting what he was saying and observing what he was doing.)
I continued to hold him, and reflect his sadness.
Me: Where do you feel your sadness?
Boy: In my heart, and in my eyes because I can’t stop crying (locating the emotion in the body).
Me: I would feel sad too because I like creatures too (empathising).
When he had calmed down, and he was over his upset, I asked him what he knew about Christmas beetles (exploring). We had a discussion about Christmas beetles. How they change from lawn grubs into beetles. How our dogs dig up the grubs and eat them (yuk!).
This wasn’t a teaching moment, it was a shared moment – I know what interests him. His dad piped up and said that Christmas must be coming again because it was a Christmas beetle, and that made the boy laugh.
Part of being a positive parent is helping to organise your child’s feelings. It is not telling her to “get over it, and on with it”. It’s not dismissing how she feels. It’s not distracting her with a toy to try to cheer her up. It is being with your child through all of the bigness and discomfort of it all. You don’t want your child to be so upset or angry, and you are tempted to try and move her through it quickly so you can get on with being calmer and happier. However, the more you acknowledge your child’s feelings and “be with” her, the more emotionally attuned she will become. In time, she will learn how to organise her own feelings because she has had it modelled for her.
I don’t live in Disneyland. I know this is not possible all of the time. There are days when I have a screaming boy when I’m trying to get out the door to get to work. I do some acknowledging of feelings but I tell him that I don’t have time to organise his feelings the way he is used to. Because he is “heard” most of the time, he can tolerate the times when it’s not possible.
Kid President’s 25 reasons to be thankful (2015) YouTube
Categories: Managing Emotions