Emotional Coaching is a key technique used to support children in developing their social and emotional skills which are essential for them to be able to master their emotions, behaviour and form positive relationships. We can inject aspects of emotional coaching into our everyday teaching and here's how to do it.
What is Emotional Coaching?
Emotional Coaching is a co-regulation strategy founded by Dr. Adele Lafrance Robinson and Dr Joanne Dolhanty. It is the process of guiding a child through intense emotions by validating, naming, relating and setting boundaries which helps children learn how to self-regulate over time.
What are the benefits of Emotional Coaching?
There are many benefits for both children and parents/caregivers/teachers from using emotional coaching. Research has shown that children who are emotionally coached are;
more emotionally stable
have fewer behavioural difficulties
perform stronger in academics
are more self-aware
have more positive relationships with parents/caregivers/peers
are able to self-regulate easier
For parents/caregivers/teachers who use emotional coaching regularly, there are also benefits! People have reported feeling that they are able to communicate more effectively with children when they are in crisis and have also felt less stressed in difficult or challenging situations.
Stages of Emotional Coaching
It is important to do these steps in order. It may feel odd and slightly scripted at first, but with time, it will become second nature.
1. Attend to the emotions
Attending to an emotion basically refers to acknowledging that something is wrong or that something has happened to change a child's emotional state. Just saying something like, "I can see something's up" or "Something has happened." is enough to show that you have noted a change and that you're going to support them.
2. Name the emotions
Putting the child's emotion into words will help them expand their vocabulary regarding emotions and feelings, so give the emotion a name. Children who have a wide emotive vocabulary;
have fewer behavioural difficulties as they can express themselves in other ways
are more empathetic towards others as they have a better self-awareness
have better coping skills
find forming positive and healthy relationships easier
have better mental health
Naming emotions also helps them feel understood and heard. You could say things like, "I can see you're upset" or "You look frustrated".
3. Validate the emotions
This is arguably the most important aspect of emotional coaching. We all need to feel validated and understood, and this applies to children too. It is important to accept, allow and validate emotions that are different to your own or not what you expected them to be. Everyone is entitled to feel what they feel, even if it is hard for others to understand them.
To show validation of emotions, you could say things like "It makes sense that you feel frustrated because you didn't get the seat you wanted." Some other validating phrases may be;
I get why you would feel X because...
I can see how X might make you feel X because...
No wonder you're X because...
I can understand why you would feel X because...
Remember, you are validating feelings. You are not validating or allowing any inappropriate behaviour.
4. Meet the need
This is where you are helping the child through the emotion they are feeling. This does not mean fixing anything or simply giving them what they want, you are supporting them in either learning to sit with their emotions (building their distress tolerance) or providing them with what an emotion needs.
For example, sadness needs comfort, anxiety or fear needs safety and security and anger (depending on the cause) needs coaching on how to express that emotion in a positive, productive way.