The makings of a positive friendship


Emotion Coaching for Communities

Imagine if we could find a universal strategy that could support and promote sustainable emotional and behavioural well-being in our children? What if we could do this not only in our own communities but within our education systems too? What if there was a step by step guide that could help us effectively promote resiliency skills, emotional and behavioural self-regulation and support pro-social behaviours?

Emotion coaching is a 5-step practical guide which offers us this opportunity. Emotion coaching helps children to understand the different emotions they experience, why they occur and how to handle them. Emotion Coaching is based on the principle that nurturing and emotionally supportive relationships provide optimal contexts for the promotion of children’s outcomes and resilience. Emotion Coaching accepts all emotions and supports children to identify the difference between helpful and unhelpful behaviours and provides the support children need to develop lifelong resiliency skills.

For a child to develop emotional and psychological good health, they rely on secure attachments with the main significant adults in their life and to experience environments that provide consistent and warm relationships. Attachment is fostered through attunement, or in other words the emotional and physiological states of a child being the focus of attention by an adult.

Emotion coaching can be used as an in vivo technique to support a child whose behavioural response may be inappropriate or unhelpful for their own and others well-being. It can also be a tool to enhance relationships with children. It is a multi-disciplinary approach that can be used in any community and educational context.

For children to receive this consistency in response to their emotions and behaviours, we would likely see a significant rise in emotional regulation and behaviour management.

So let’s take a look at the steps of emotions coaching:

Step 1. Being aware of your own emotions and the child’s emotions.
Emotional awareness is recognizing when you are feeling an emotion and are sensitive to the presence of emotions in others.

Step 2. Recognize the situation as an opportunity for connection and teaching.
Acknowledging lower intensity emotions provides the opportunity for acceptance and problem solving which is imperative for the management of more intense emotions.
“I’m feeling really frustrated that the kids keep arguing, and I also know that they are having a tough time articulating their needs and they need me to be calm and help guide them.”

Step 3. Listen empathically and validate the child’s feelings.
Listening and understanding a child’s point of view has a hugely calming effect.
“I can see you’re mad, I’d be mad too if Jimmy scribbled on my picture.”

Step 4. Help the child to verbally label emotions.
Supporting the child to come up with words to describe their feelings provides a foundation for the development of emotional language and literacy which are the building blocks of emotional intelligence.
“I wonder if you’re feeling cranky with Jimmy?”

Step 5. Set limits while helping the child to solve problems.
This process involves setting boundaries around acceptable and unacceptable behaviours while helping the child learn to problem solve for future difficulties, providing a sense of expectation, control and collaboration.
“I can see you’re mad, I’d be mad too if Jimmy scribbled on my drawing. Being mad doesn’t mean it is ok to push Jimmy over. You are going to have to have some quiet time now. I wonder what you could do differently next time you are feeling mad like this?”
The younger the child, the more support they may need to come up with problem-solving ideas.

Now that you have been introduced to the 5 steps of Emotion Coaching, give it a go! The more we use this approach the more effective it is!
For additional support in starting your emotion coaching journey, you can book an appointment with one of our registered psychologists.

If you would like to see us in person in the Shoalhaven and Wollongong areas or have an online appointment from anywhere to discuss some support then contact us today.


Gus, L., Rose, J. & Gilbert, L. (2015) Emotion Coaching: A universal strategy for supporting and promoting sustainable emotional and behavioural well-being. Educational and Child Psychology, Vol 32, No 1, The British Psychological Society.

Gottman, J. (1997) Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting. Simon and Schuster

Emma Lightfoot



related articles

From Little Things Big Things Grow

From Little Things Big Things Grow

There are times when I say to a client “…look how far you’ve come. Remember when we first met…?” Just this sentence can be a topic of discussion. It is such a privilege seeing a person (or a couple) reflect on their own growth