5 Essential Tips for Emotional Coaching

Best practices for teachers and parents for building EQ.

Posted Jun 29, 2019

"If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions,
make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings and grow."

—Alfie Kohn

Maureen Healy/Shutterstock
Source: Maureen Healy/Shutterstock

Coaching your child or student on his or her emotions can be tricky, but it’s the work of conscious adults, especially those wanting to nurture emotional health. Of course, some children are easier than others regarding emotional outbursts, a proclivity toward anger or sadness, or problematic behaviors, but with time, tools, and practice, progress is made. I can also say that the best emotional coaches do certain things, which I list as my “Top Five” pointers:

1. Connect Being open to see the situation from your student or child’s perspective and putting yourself “in their shoes” helps build a stronger connection. They’ll feel like you’re on their side and you want to understand. Yelling and scolding are signs of disconnection.   

2. Be a calming presence — The calmer we can stay, the better chance our students and children have of learning how to calm themselves. Of course, there are moments when calm feels out of the question (for most of us), which is why learning how to stay calm and centered during an emotional storm takes practice.

3. Listen fully — Being able to genuinely hear what a child or student is saying can be transformative. This doesn’t mean you 100 percent agree, but you hear them. You are there for them. Even saying, “I’m here for you,” can help immensely.

4. Focus on problem-solving (not punishment) — Children make mistakes when emotionally triggered—like we all do, especially early on in our development. But the best emotional coaches focus on solving the “emotional problem” versus solely on punishment for a not-so-smart choice.

5. Learn together — We’re always learning alongside our children and students. We may be learning patience, forgiveness, and empathy, while our children may be learning how to skillfully handle their big emotions, like anger or sadness.

In addition, over and over I hear from children how words hurt or help them heal in emotional moments. I see children “hang” on my words. Although I couldn’t even remember what game I played with Jenny last Tuesday, for her it was life-changing. After she got home, she had her mother order the game, Clue, and has been practicing all week to beat me and show me how good she’s gotten.

Children are impressionable, which sounds obvious, but they’re literally creating how they feel about themselves and their world through what we say and the messages we send them. They want to feel seen, heard, and safe, while being able to explore and discover their interests with gusto. I remember being a young child and having a “flashbulb moment” when someone said something that changed my self-perception, and I remember everything about that moment—for better or worse. Of course, our aim is to give our children positive flashbulb moments to the best of our ability.


Healy, M. (2018). The Emotionally Healthy Child. Novato, CA: New World Library.  Preface from Dalai Lama.