Today we have a guest blog from Cristin Howard of Smart Parent Advice. My thanks for raising awareness of this important issue
Author Bio: Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for mums and dads. Cristin writes about the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase.
Emotional intelligence is a skill. It’s one that you can help your child to learn from the day they are born. There are so many benefits to being an emotionally intelligent person that it’s not hard to understand why you’d want to help your children develop this toolkit.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your feelings while still empathising with others. People with high emotional intelligence are often able to form better relationships, be more successful, and often have a better level of mental well being.
Since we’re all on board with why it’s important, let’s go over some tips to help your child learn how to manage their feelings and develop empathy.
One of the essential tools you can give your children to help them manage their feelings is labels. Give them words to express what they feel, and they’ll be better situated to deal with their emotions.
You can start doing this from day one. As you’re chatting to your baby or your toddler, you can describe how they feel. When they’re crying, you can talk about the fact that they’re sad or frustrated as you calm them down.
By talking about their emotions not, only do you give them tools to understand them, but you also validate them. As children get older, it can be easy to dismiss their emotions, especially if they’re being dramatic. But, if talking through their feelings has become a habit for you, then you will always be validating their emotions and letting them feel heard.
Separate Emotions from Behaviour
It’s crucial to draw a line between emotions and behaviour. Whatever your child feels are valid and acceptable. That doesn’t mean that you let them do whatever they want.
If your child is having a meltdown, let them calm down a little, then talk to them about what happened. Show them empathy and understanding, for example – “I know that taking turns is hard and can make you feel angry”. Then make it clear that their behaviour was the problem. – “But it’s never OK to hit”.
Teaching Coping Mechanisms for Big Emotions
Once you’ve started separating behaviour from emotions, you need to start giving you kids tools to deal with how they feel. For young children and teenagers, their emotions can hijack their brains, and they often end up acting before they think. What can seem like a dramatic response to you is, to them, the only option.
Teaching them to recognise that their emotions are taking over gives them a chance to separate themselves from the problem. Coping strategies like counting to 10 when you feel angry or flicking an elastic band on your wrist when you’re getting frustrated, can help them disconnect from their emotions for a moment and get some perspective.
These are hard things to learn. So, the sooner you can start teaching them, the easier it will be for your children to pick them up and use them.
Help Them Learn to Problem Solve
At first glance, this might seem like an odd suggestion, but it’s a really important tool for your children to learn. If they are competent at problem-solving, they can use their coping mechanisms to calm down and then apply their problem-solving skills to fix the situation.
You can help them develop these skills in two key ways. Firstly, how you react in the moment; don’t give them solutions, guide them to find their own. Secondly, give them opportunities to learn problem-solving through play. Open-ended toys like sandboxes, playhouses, and building toys are great for this. It makes problem-solving second nature.
Be A Role Model
This final tip is the most effective and the most difficult. We all know that kids are like sponges. They pick up on everything that we do. So, if you want to raise an emotionally intelligent child, then you need to try and be an emotionally intelligent parent.
- Talk about your feelings
- If you make a mistake, talk about what you felt, but why what you did was wrong
- Use coping strategies if you start to lose your temper
- Keep trying new ways to model empathy to your children
Quick note from me:
This blog is an incredibly useful guide to the important issue of emotional awareness and management. In my new book ‘Toolkit for Teens and Parents’ released in October I highlight how much difficulty teenagers have when they struggle and need to learn better techniques to handle big emotions such as anger and emotional pain. So, keep trying to teach your kids this skill as it truly pays off in later life.