Project TIK

Tuning In To Kids: Teaching Parents Skills in “Emotion Coaching”

Principal Investigator

  • Christie Petrenko, Ph.D.


  • Sheree Toth, Ph.D.
  • Liz Handley, Ph.D.


  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Project Summary

Challenges managing emotions underlie most mental health disorders. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can damage parts of the brain that are critical for healthy emotion regulation. This places children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) at high risk for future mental health difficulties. Parents also struggle to know how to best respond when their children experience a lot of negative emotions, causing stress for the family. Effective interventions could help reduce this risk and improve the quality of life for children with FASD and their families.

This study will test the Tuning in to Kids (TIK) intervention with families raising children with FASD. TIK is an eight week group intervention for parents. It teaches parents effective ways to respond to their children’s emotions, using what is called an “emotion coaching” approach. The aim of this approach is to improve children’s emotion regulation skills and reduce challenging behaviors. This study will be the first to test whether TIK is helpful for families raising children with special needs, particularly those with FASD.

Over three years, this study will enroll approximately 80 families raising children (ages 4–12) with FASD. Half of the participants will receive TIK immediately, and the other half will receive the program about five to six months later. This study will also provide important knowledge about what specific parent emotion socialization attitudes and practices are most related to better emotion regulation skills in children with FASD. This can help improve interventions for this population.