It can sometimes be tough for children to manage their emotions. Big feelings can sometimes come out in disruptive ways. But teaching children to manage their feelings, at home and in Primary, starts with acknowledging and accepting the feeling — not asking the child to stuff the feeling inside. (Hint: these emotion-managing skills can be useful for adults too – with family members, coworkers, AND oneself.)
“Emotion coaching” is an idea from Dr. John Gottman that Michelle and I explore in our video workshop on this blog, “Video Workshop: Teaching Kids to Feel Empathy for All God’s Children Through Service (5:25-11:45). Emotion coaching starts with honestly acknowledging the feeling, not denying it. Sadly, an easy default response is scolding a child for feeling angry or upset or disappointed, but children cope better when their feelings are acknowledged. Then, when they feel understood, they can move ahead and brainstorm options of better behavior choices. “All feelings and wishes are acceptable. Not all actions and behaviors are acceptable,” said Dr. Gottman.
“Feelings First-Aid Kit” (the FRIEND magazine article linked above) says, “It’s OK to cry when you feel sad. Sometimes it can help you feel better. Even Jesus cried after His friend Lazarus died. (See John 11:35.)”
Here are two examples of emotion coaching, one at home and one in Primary.
EMOTION COACHING AT HOME:
Mom: It’s time to do your homework now!
9 year old: Ugh. I don’t want to. I want to play some more.
Mom: I know you do. It’s hard to stop playing when you’re having so much fun! And I know homework isn’t your favorite thing to do.
9 year old: It’s my least favorite thing to do!
Mom: I know it is. I never really liked doing homework either. Let’s do it quickly and get it over with so we have time to go back outside and play together! Let’s grab your folder and I can help you for a few minutes.
EMOTION COACHING AT PRIMARY:
5 year old: I never get a turn. Everyone else always gets to have a turn. I never do.
Teacher/Leader: I can tell you’re very frustrated. You love having a turn to (hold a picture, say the prayer, play the game).
5 year old: (Pouting. Head nodding YES.)
Teacher/Leader: I know it’s hard to wait for your turn. You’ll get a turn soon. Would you like to sit next to me here while you wait for your turn?
Interested in exploring more about Emotion Coaching? Check out the video workshop on this blog, “Video Workshop: Teaching Kids to Feel Empathy for All God’s Children Through Service. (5:25-11:45). Also see Helping children accept others with special needs.