Updated: Monday, 11 Feb 2013, 9:11 AM EST
Published : Wednesday, 25 Apr 2012, 3:41 PM EDT
“I told him there was nothing to be scared of” says a mom regarding her 5 year old son who’s scared of the dark.
“You don’t need to be embarrassed, just say what you are thinking!” says a father to his 12 year old daughter who is talking to him about a recent encounter with a boy.
“My 7 year old is so angry lately, how do I make it stop?” a recently divorced client asks me.
“I have a stomachache, I can’t go to school” says a 2 nd grader to her mom on the morning of a big test.
As adults, it is often difficult to understand what a child is feeling, much less know how to help them articulate what they are feeling. It can be challenging to step into their shoes, recognizing that children are not developmentally ready to decipher emotions and state their needs as adults are—even adults can have challenges with this!
There are many ways that schools are trying to integrate what they are calling “emotional awareness” skills and “emotion coaching” into curriculum. There are also parents who are wondering how to give their children the language and tools necessary to build insight and empathy in their children as well as build a great parent-child bond and partnership. Focusing on academics and intellect is something we find necessary for our children, but building emotional awareness and capacity for having healthy relationships with others is equally as important.
There are five elements to “emotion coaching” that have emerged from research on this topic. They are:
Notice that these steps do not include telling a child to stop feeling something, or diminishing what they are feeling by labeling something that you as a parent find to be more acceptable, even though we can easily default to these types of responses.
There are a couple of resources I’d like to share with you that I think might be helpful if you are a parent or educator wondering where to begin nurturing emotional intelligence with young children in your life. I’d be curious to hear your reactions and thoughts as you review these resources and also as you put these concepts into action.
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting by Dr. John Gottman & Joan Declaire
The Truth about Children and Divorce by Robert Emery PhD (specifically for emotionally coaching children through the effects of divorce)
Step Families by Dr. James H Bray & John Kelly (focuses on how to ease conflicts and build communication in blended families)
Kimochis: Toys with Feelings Inside (a communication tool for parents and educators)
For more information on behavioral health issues, or to seek assistance, go to www.pinerest.org .