Even as newborns, children feel intense emotions, but it takes years to fully develop emotional regulation skills. As a parent coach, developmental psychology expert, and preschool director, I know how challenging it can be to help kids express their emotions in a healthy way.
Watching your child struggle with frustration, anger, and sadness can feel overwhelming, and emotional dysregulation can have a deep, negative impact on your home’s atmosphere. Luckily, it’s never too late (or early!) to teach emotional intelligence through emotion coaching.
Address, Don’t Suppress
As a parent, it might be tempting to dismiss or suppress your child’s negative emotions, especially when we’re frazzled or frustrated and just want a quick, quiet resolution. ‘Skipping’ the tantrum isn’t an option just because you tell them to. Try to avoid saying:
Get over it
It’s nothing, stop whining
Coach through Coping
Instead, we can guide them through the self-soothing process and label their emotions with feeling words. Support and validate their emotions by saying, “You look frustrated. Is that how you feel?” Then, talk through calming strategies together. Some of my favorite coping skills for kids are:
Close your eyes and imagine your favorite place
Name foods in the alphabet (apple, banana, candy…)
Lift arms up and breathe in, then put arms down and breathe out
Model Emotional Intelligence
When children are agitated, they transition into ‘fight or flight’ mode, so their problem-solving skills are even less accessible. Children subconsciously pick up on our emotions and reflect how they see adults react. In order to help them calm down, we need to stay calm, too.
Use empathetic distractions to shift their focus away from the stressor
Respond with warm, loving physical touches – like a hug or back rub
Work with a licensed professional to learn more emotion coaching strategies
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Always with love,