A parent recently called and said she was looking for a “Feelings Teacher” for her two children. I explained that this was not necessarily a title I’d been given before, but that perhaps I could help. While discussing what exactly her goals would be for bringing her children in to see a “Feelings Teacher,” she identified what I would call typical treatment goals for counseling with children:
(1) Increase ability to recognize emotions,
(2) develop skills to calm down when they get upset, and
(3) learn ways to communicate respectfully how they are feeling.
By the end of the conversation we decided that I fit the criteria necessary to be a Feelings Teacher.
Oftentimes parents seek out our services when their children are demonstrating concerning or challenging behaviors. At our practice, we teach that behind a behavior is a feeling. If we meet the child’s needs by addressing their feelings, the behavior often goes away. Because of typical childhood development, children only sometimes consciously know why they act the way they do. Most times, when children misbehave, it is due to
(A) lack of skills to manage “big feelings,” (their feelings get so big it causes an outburst or meltdown), or
(B) a misguided attempt to have a need met.
To verbally communicate a need, a child must master several skills, some of which include emotion identification within their own bodies and in others, understanding that emotions can both get smaller and bigger, developing regulation skills to “shrink” unhappy feelings, and grow an emotionally intelligent vocabulary. They must also have a supportive environment with emotionally regulated adults who can help them learn and practice these skills outside of the therapy room.
With lots of experience in helping children reach these types of goals, I’d say being called a Feelings Teacher is the perfect title. And it’s a pretty fun job too!