Today we are talking with senior therapist, Marcilla Tims who does incredible work here at Flourish with our adults as well as quite a few kids. Marcilla, I wanted to ask you, “Are parents an emotion coach for their children?
Marcilla: Yes. One of the things that we really want to teach parents here at Flourish is that you are absolutely your kids’ emotion coach whether you realize it or not.
Angela: Okay. So, give us a couple of examples of how that’s the case.
Marcilla: One of the first and foremost things is, how do you handle your own emotions? Kids see and get role modeled through your behavior. So, the way in which you handle any of the emotions that you’re aware of and that you’re displaying on a regular basis is a modeling for how the kids are going to learn how that manage that feeling when they feel it. For example, when you feel frustrated, what do your kids see in terms of how you handle frustration? When you are angry, or sad, what do the kids see you do when you’re feeling those feelings? You’re coaching for them in those moments how to handle that emotion.
Angela. Okay. What would be another way in which it’s really important for parents to recognize that they are an emotion coach for their children?
Marcilla: The other big piece is when you see your kids struggling or dealing with a particular emotion, what are the messages you give them about how to handle that emotion? For example, if they are crying do you check in with them to find out what the feeling is that they’re struggling with or is your first impulse to say “don’t cry”? If you are saying that, be aware of what message that sends to the kid. Also, if a kid is frustrated with a toy or with a sibling, do you try to squash that right away rather than checking in with them and seeing what the feeling is, helping them come up with a name for that feeling, and then teaching them ways to manage that? Those are all big and important ways that you are their emotion coach.
Angela: Awesome. So, if we’re responsive to our kids’ feelings, we’re teaching them that their emotions matter. However, if we tell them “Stop being angry at your sister or stop crying,” we are unintentionally teaching them that their feelings should be bottled up or that they shouldn’t be paid attention to.
Marcilla: Yes. I think what most parents don’t realize that they are unintentionally doing is teaching their kids that emotions can be dismissed, discounted or disregarded. However, emotions are important. If that’s the message that’s sent to them, what are they going to learn about emotions well into adulthood? What are they learning about how to handle emotions or how to validate their own emotions?
Angela: Awesome, that is great insight for all of us busy parents to have.
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