Every parent’s main desire is to have a healthy and happy child. An important part of that health and happiness is the child’s emotional intelligence, which allows them to deal with their own feelings, while understanding how other people feel. But, what can you do to help your child develop their emotional intelligence? Here are some ideas.
1 View negative emotions as an opportunity to grow
Children tend to get emotional over things that are a huge deal to them, but seem irrelevant to you. They might even act out and have a real emotional outburst. The important thing is not to dismiss their emotions, even when they are negative. Don’t scold or punish them for getting emotional. Remember that they don’t really know how to control their emotions and it’s up to you to teach them, so use these negative emotions to help them learn something and grow from them. Tell them that it’s normal they’re frustrated and that you understand their anger over a toy they can’t have or a child that doesn’t want to play with them. If you tell them that what they’re feeling is bad and wrong, they’ll think that they’re the ones who are bad and wrong, so, instead, show compassion and once the child calms down, talk about how they felt and what they can do to make themselves feel better next time they feel that way.
2 Talk to your child
You should always try being aware of how your child feels. If you notice they’re sad or angry and you don’t know why, talk to them and try to find out. They might not always be upfront with you, sometimes because they don’t feel like sharing, but mostly because they might not know how to express their feelings through words. Teach them how to label and name their feelings, tell them it’s ok to feel anything that they feel, and tell them it happens to everybody, you included. If your child doesn’t open up, try playing with them. They will sometimes communicate with you through fantasy play, assigning their toys the feelings and emotions they feel. If they tell you a doll is sad when it can’t visit its friends, you’ll know what the problem is and how to proceed in solving it.
3 Set a good example
If you express your emotions verbally, clearly and calmly to your child, they’ll accept that as normal behavior and will copy it. By treating other people with respect and understanding, without aggression and rage, you show your child how they should behave with people surrounding them. Show them how they can contribute to their community by setting them an example. Support noble causes as a family, volunteer, donate, collect money for some important cause or at least find a way to inform those in need of available financial aid or support in the form of girls scholarships. This will help them grow into useful and helpful members of their community and become aware of the social issues, like poverty, famine or the importance of education.
4 Show empathy
When your child talks to you, listen to them, validate their emotions, and mirror them by saying, for example, that you understand how frustrating and irritating it is when you can’t win at something, because you sometimes feel the same. Then proceed explaining that winning isn’t the only important thing, and that every time they play a game, even when they lose, they get better at it. Plus, there’s fun in playing a game, no matter who the winner is. Accept all your child’s emotions and name each of them. If you dismiss them or disapprove of them, the child will think that it’s unacceptable or shameful to feel negative emotions, which might lead to nightmares or even aggressive behavior. When they see that you understand what they’re feeling and that their emotions are normal, they’ll feel relieved and will more likely discuss any situation they find themselves in and how to change things for the better.
5 Let them play
By playing with their friends, children get to practice peer to peer interaction and various social skills which can help them develop their emotional intelligence. Providing your child with opportunities for an imaginative and unstructured play with other children their age will help improve their communication skills, as well as teach them how to resolve conflicts or solve problems on their own. Find time for them to play, since it’s no less important than doing their homework or going to their soccer practice.
Being a parent might be the hardest job you’ve ever had to do, but it’s also the most rewarding one, so help your child become the best version of themselves – bright, self-confident and a good person.
This is a guest post by Claire Adams.
A blog about my life in The Old House, a mum to teenagers, a primary school teacher and my passion for gardening.