Category Archives: Emotion Coaching

Boys Desperate for Emotional Vocabulary

It’s World Mental Health Day.  This year’s focus is on suicide prevention.  This is such an important issue to consider when working with our children as it is one of the leading causes of death for healthy teenagers. 

In today’s society, changes are happening for the better to promote positive mental health.  However, boys continue to suffer from the social pressure that defines them by their gender.  They are permitted to cry at the serious things like death and divorce.  However, they are continually encouraged to repress any emotion other than anger and happiness in their day to day lives.  Because of this assumption that boys do not have deep feelings, they are being exposed to far fewer ways to define their emotions than their female peers.  This leads to higher levels of depression and anxiety coupled with a useless shame for seeking help.  Can we really wonder why many of our boys are lacking coping skills for their emotions when they feel they don’t have permission to have those feelings to begin with?

Luckily, we are in a moment of awakening when it comes to resolving gender bias.  Society is realising that this is not a feminist issue, but a human issue.  We can do better for our children by providing them with an emotional vocabulary that is not coupled with shame and guilt for not “being a man”.  Here are some important facts to instill in all of our children to help them experience emotions without letting them cause poor mental health

All Emotions Are OK and Have Names

In the beginning of language development, we feel sad, mad or happy.  As we develop more language skills, we broaden our understanding of how our world works.  The earlier we can better define how we feel; the more awareness we develop of why we feel that way.  Let them learn the difference between hyper and energized, between ecstatic and joyful, between furious and frustrated.  The coping skills for all of those feelings are different as are the causes.  Definition provides insight which provides self-awareness.

Give the Gift of Because

Children often feel negative emotions as anger (adults do as well!).  Anger is a superficial emotion that we feel because we cannot define or cope with the underlying feeling.  Adding one simple word can help move through the anger to the real feeling that is causing pain.  So, “I’m angry”, the comment becomes “I’m angry because I lost the game.”  Then, we can help them define the real feeling of disappointment or embarrassment.  Finding their ‘because’ also provides a moment to bond with your child.  Who doesn’t want a few extra moments like that!

Vulnerability is NOT the Same as Weakness

This is a lesson that many guarded people struggle to learn.  There is a strength in being vulnerable.  There is courage in being vulnerable and showing up anyway.  Responding to vulnerability by offering a secure space for reflection teaches our children to be comfortable in their own skin at all times.  It teaches them grit and to be brave.

Asking for Help is an Essential Life Skill

Any teacher will tell you, one of the biggest challenges in a classroom comes from children being afraid to ask for help.  They fear exposing themselves as someone who does not know what to do.  This translates into a limiting belief that can be life threatening.  We need to change the narrative.  Those who ask for help, get what they need to be better.  Help may need to be academic, emotional, physical or in questioning identity.  There is nothing more isolating than being under resourced without a developed skill and ability to ask for help.  We need to teach our children the skill of asking for help now so that when they are older, that muscle is already developed. 

Mental Health is Equal in Value to Physical Health

We would not hesitate to go to the hospital for a broken arm.  We know that we do not have to suffer extreme pain without support and that healing can take time.  The same is true when suffering with poor mental health.  Exam stress will always be there.  However, it does not need to be so extreme that the emotional pain becomes unbearable.  Teach them that it is ok to find better resources for coping.  There are professionals who are educated and trained to help.  It only makes sense to rely on their expertise when under-resourced.

Many mental health conditions in adolescence and adulthood can be avoided if we educate our children now.  Gender should not define how broadly or how deeply we are allowed to feel.  It is time that we allow our boys and girls to define and cope with all feelings.  Emotions are not just for girls anymore.

Please see here for further articles and vlogs on the topic of ‘Emotion Coaching’.

Learn to listen to help your child’s wellbeing


Helping your child talk through their emotions is more important than trying to find a quick fix to problems

Published article here

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is to help him or her become “emotionally articulate” so they can recognise, express and manage their feelings.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is arguably more important to get through life than IQ and employers are increasingly looking for ways to measure EQ when recruiting.
The state of children’s mental health has been mentioned in the press a great deal recently. As a parent coach/educator speaking to thousands of parents, I have also noticed many more parents increasingly raising issues such as their child’s self-esteem, anxiety, anger, eating disorders, self-harming and depression.

Many schools appreciate how important it is to put preventative measures in place to support children’s mental health. JFS has introduced a “health hut” — a comfortable space for students to book an appointment and chat with various external professionals three times a week about any issues concerning them. Sixthformers are trained to deliver programmes to support the younger years.

At Immanuel College, year heads are trained in mental-health issues such as anxiety and eating disorders. The whole Immanuel community is taught about respecting and valuing the importance of good mental health and how to achieve it.

The most effective way to respond when a child of any age is experiencing a difficult emotion is to acknowledge your child’s perspective and empathise. You don’t have to agree or give in. However, during meltdowns, it is the worst approach for parents to deny feelings, give advice or ask questions. What children need first is empathy: acknowledge their upset so they feel heard and understood.

Haim Ginott, the 20th-century child psychologist said, “Whilst we can find our child’s behaviour to be unacceptable at times, his or her feelings should never be.”

Using the analogy of an iceberg, the tip is a child’s behaviour: this is what parents tend to react to. Instead, parents need to address the main issue, the child’s feelings and emotions, which are 90 per cent of the problem, and under the surface.

Parents can act as an emotion coach for their children, using “reflective listening”. Acknowledging and labelling emotions has proven to have a soothing effect on the nervous system, helping children recover more quickly. This technique is the basis of many forms of psychotherapy.

Next time your child is experiencing a difficult emotion:

1. Put your own emotions and wishes to one side and observe your child. Look at their body language, tone of voice and listen to what they say.

2. Imagine how your child is feeling and reflect that back to them in words. You can take an educated guess and even if you are wrong, your child will still feel respected, validated and heard. For instance, if your child can’t do something rather than saying, “don’t be silly, it’s easy”, say: “You look really frustrated. You have tried so many times.”

3. It also helps to describe their resistance, for instance: “You wish you didn’t have to go to bed. You want to stay up late like mummy.”

Parents mainly want to fix the problem quickly and make it go away. However, it is better to listen first and talk through the emotion. Address the unwanted behaviour and problem-solve later.

Emotions are there to be felt and then they can move on.

It takes practice and determination to stay calm and empathise, especially during tantrums and meltdowns. It is the best tool a parent has  — to communicate, connect and encourage children to be more emotionally articulate.

Do this effectively and the impact on your child’s long-term mental health and well-being will be enormous.

Emotion Coaching

How to listen so kids will talk

A powerful way for parents to help children when they are experiencing a difficult emotion


What is ‘Emotion Coaching’?

Emotion coaching can also be known as ‘Reflective’ or ‘Active’ listening.  This is a way for parents to respond when a child is having an uncomfortable feeling.  It enables a child to recognise and articulate an emotion so they can move more quickly towards accepting  and problem solving.

What are the benefits of Emotion Coaching?

  • Shows a child you care about their feelings
  • Child feels heard and understood
  • Reduces misbehaviour
  • More ’emotionally intelligent’ – able to express and communicate feelings
  • Encourages problem solving
  • Enhances connection and relationship between parent and child

How do you do it?

  • Put your own thoughts, emotions and wishes to one side (the most tricky part!)
  • STOP what you are doing.  Stand back and observe your child
  • Imagine how your child may be feeling and reflect that back in words
  • Empathise with their resistance