Modeling Emotion Management

Staff should model healthy emotion strategies like active listening, remaining calm, communicating effectively and honestly, and validating others’ emotions.

Successful leaders serve as a model for mature expression and ways to successfully manage emotions and respond to the emotions of others. This modeling includes accepting and naming emotions, setting boundaries on what personal information is shared, and use of patient and open problem solving to resolve emotionally charged issues.

This modeling occurs within the context of caring relationships with the youth, both individually and with the group. Leaders are not detached models youth view from a distance. Youth learn working models of healthy bidirectional relationships through their participation in positive, caring interactions with the leaders and through observation of leaders’ similar caring interactions with other youth.

Laura Greenlee Karp from Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) helps youth to “redefine how they see authority figures” by presenting models of emotion management that youth may not typically see from other authority figures in their lives like parents or school day teachers. By seeing adults express emotions appropriately, youth become motivated to study and apply what they see in this healthy model, first with other youth in the program, and then in their relationships beyond the program, including, in some cases, relationships with their parents and guardians.

The facilitators are trained to create space for heartfelt sharing and learning, and to hold the container and share authentically, but not as peers or ‘friends.’ Staff share their troubles in a bracketed and appropriate manner so as to avoid burdening youth or overtaking groups’ emotional climate with their own issues. Enough to model truly showing up with openness and vulnerability, but not so much that their issues drive the emotional tenor of the group.

Further Reading

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Name an experience you’ve had where being honest with someone changed your relationship for the better?