Emotion coaching

Helping children to notice, recognise and begin to express how they are feeling is vital for their emotional development and long-term mental health and wellbeing.

Much of the premise for our sensation and emotion cards is to promote emotion coaching which supports, regulates and teaches children about their emotional experiences.

Children need multiple, repeated experiences of empathic adults noticing, labelling and validating their emotions in a safe, relational way so that all feelings are acknowledged, accepted and safe to have.

This empathic engagement with a child enables a ‘felt’ sense of being understood and activates changes in the child’s neurological system allowing them to calm down, physiologically and psychologically.

Children need this consistent experience of feeling heard and valued so they can begin to regulate themselves. This can only happen if they have had enough experience of being soothed, regulated and helped to name their emotions by empathic adults. Once a child is calm and regulated and able to think about, reflect and then talk about their experience they can begin to link emotions to thinking and actions.

Reflectively, spending time talking together is also an invaluable element of emotion coaching, exploring what our emotions are, how they present and how we can begin to make sense of them.

“The goal of emotion coaching is to explore and understand emotions, not to suppress them.”

John Gottman – Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child (1998)

Hamish & Milo Sensation & Emotion Cards

Sensation & Emotion Cards

Our Sensation & Emotion Cards help children to recognise, communicate and express their feelings by developing their emotional awareness and vocabulary.

Five core stages of emotion coaching

Adapted from Gottman

Step one – Notice and respond to the child’s experience of the emotion whilst holding them in connection and care.

  • Observe, listen and learn how the child expresses different emotions through facial and verbal expression as well as body language.
  • Recognise the range of emotions and how there may be conflicting feelings.
  • Understand that emotions are a natural and valuable part of life.

Step two – Label the emotion and the ‘felt experience’ of the child to build a broad vocabulary of feelings.

  • Recognise emotional moments as opportunities for exploring and teaching.
  • Use language that acknowledges the depth of the emotion e.g. “I can see that is a big furious feeling” rather than “Oh you’re a bit cross.”

Step three – Validate the child’s experience of the emotion and the sensations they are having.

  • Show that you understand the emotion without dismissing or diminishing the intensity of the feeling.
  • Help the child to feel heard and accepted.

Stage four – Respond to help and support the child through the emotional experience.

  • Meet the emotional need by containing, responding and ‘holding the child steady’ through the feeling so that they feel safe, cared about and able to survive through it.

Stage five – Reflect about what was happening and help them to express their feelings.

  • Explore safe ways to express and release the emotion together e.g. stamp, hug, cry and help the child to think through possible or alternative solutions.
Emotions Cards Hamish & Milo Boy