Counselor’s Corner: Parents as Emotion Coaches, Mini-Workshop Recap

Jan PFrom Mrs. Pendergrass

After a review of what’s been happening in the counseling program, on Tuesday morning I shared with parents what it means to be an Emotion Coach. First we talked about why coaching is a good way to look at parenting.

  • Coaches provide drills and exercises to prepare for the “game” (doing life on their own)! Never do for a child what they can do for themselves. Make the mundane fun and even a friendly competition.

  • Coaches provide encouragement as well as instruction. We all know kids respond to praise. And sometimes we need to use “tough love.” (Be the parent, not the friend.)

  • Coaches are on the same team as the players! It’s not “us against them.”

  • Coaching is rewarding and challenging, but requires tireless dedication, lots of study and practice and a commitment to good communication.

So why do we want to be Emotion Coaches? Research shows that children who understand their feelings and learn about their emotions have these advantages:

  • They form stronger friendships with other children.

  • They calm themselves down more quickly when they get upset.

  • They do better in school.

  • They handle their moods better and have fewer negative emotions.

  • Kids feel validated and become problem solvers.

  • They get sick less often.

Emotion Coaching is a parenting technique to help children understand their feelings. When parents Emotion Coach, children learn how emotions work and how to RESPOND to feelings in healthy ways, not REACT. (All feelings and emotions are OK, but not all actions.)

If you do an internet search for “Emotion Coaching” you’ll come up with 5 steps. But I’ve broken it down into 3 and made them spell a word that actually is appropriate to the situation: ICE—ice is what you put on an injury. It cools you down and reduces inflammation. Here’s how to use ICE as an Emotion Coach:

I = IDENTIFY: Help them put words to their feelings; Label and Validate (show empathy)

The conversation might look like this: I see you are angry and frustrated. Is there anything else you are feeling? (Child might say, “I’m mad at you!”) You’re mad at me. Are you disappointed because I won’t let you… (the situation)? You seem a little sad, too. (Hopefully you are assisting in the calming down with a gentle touch or soothing cuddle.)

C = CLARIFY: Deal with the behavior; Take time to calm down; Set the limits.

It’s OK to feel angry and frustrated, but it’s never OK to hit or call people mean names… when the timer goes off… (apologize; some natural or previously stated consequence).

E = EXPLORE: How to handle better in future; Brainstorm other solutions; Problem solve: what else is going on?

Did anything happen at school today that is also making you feel bad? (Label and validate more feelings. Ask questions about how THEY can handle better… be solution focused, not bossy!) Take time to encourage like a coach and believe in your kid!

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