When our children come to us in emotional distress, we naturally do our best to lend an ear in comfort and concern. Recent research suggests that there's something else — something enormously helpful — that you can do that may reduce the intensity and duration of a child's distress: coach your kids to identify and name the specific emotions they’re feeling during moments of emotional pain.
"When we use precise labels for our feelings," explains Dr. Aaron Cooper, "we understand more about what’s happening to us emotionally, which then can lead to identifying a smart (and healthy) course of action. Clearly labeled emotions become easier to regulate ("I’m sad" rather than "I feel bad," or "I’m disappointed" rather than "I’m really bummed out")."
Dr. Aaron Cooper, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, is available to comment on coaching children to name their emotions.
"Impressive evidence exists," adds Dr. Cooper, "that teaching school-aged children to expand their understanding and use of precise emotion words improves both their social behavior as well as their academic performance."
Dr. Cooper earned his doctorate from Loyola University of Chicago, following a three-year internship at the Loyola Guidance Clinic. Prior to that, he received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) from Harvard University.
To speak to Dr. Cooper about teaching children emotional awareness, or to learn more about The Family Institute, please contact Jill Antoniewicz, Chief External Relations Officer, at jantoniewicz@family-institute or 312-609-5300, ext. 340.
ABOUT THE FAMILY INSTITUTE AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY – The Family Institute at Northwestern University (www.family-institute.org) is committed to strengthening and healing families, couples and individuals from all walks of life through clinical service, education and research. An affiliate of Northwestern University, The Family Institute is a relationally based mental health system of care governed by its own independent Board of Directors and responsible for its own funding. The Institute offers a wide range of high quality mental health counseling through our staff practice and our sliding-fee scale Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic, where we are committed to serving at-risk, under-resourced communities. The Family Institute also operates two nationally-renowned graduate programs in marriage and family therapy and counseling psychology in affiliation with Northwestern University, and conducts cutting-edge research projects that lead to a better understanding and treatment of mental health issues.