An emotionally intelligent child is far more likely to achieve success in life than a child who struggles to manage his emotions. Here are some tips on how you can help your child develop his emotional intelligence.
Hear and feel it
Acknowledge your child’s feelings and empathise with them, even if you can’t do anything about the things that upset them. Empathising doesn’t mean that you agree nor that your child won’t have to comply with what you say. It merely means that you can see the situation from his perspective. We all feel validated as human beings when we have our feelings acknowledged. And often children will be able to move on very quickly from an emotional outburst once they feel understood.
Let it all come out
Why is it that little kids seem to experience such big emotions? Well, there are several reasons actually. Young children still largely react on impulse. So they react immediately when something doesn’t feel right – usually with an emotional outburst. It is only as we get older and with practice that we learn to analyse and manage our emotional reactions to events.
Also keep in mind that your little one hasn’t quite learnt to separate the ideas of “me” and “my feelings”. They aren’t able to take a step back and look at things objectively. As parents we often make the mistake of telling our kids what not to feel. I still catch myself saying things like: “Don’t be scared” or “don’t get so upset”. When in fact, it’s impossible for your child not to. We feel what we feel. We can’t change that. We can only change our reactions to our emotions.
When your child feels that you disapprove of her emotions, she is likely to repress them. And unfortunately bottled-up feelings don’t go away. They explode when we least expect it. We all feel better once we’ve had a good cry. Or a chance to chat express what we feel. So encourage your child to express her emotions often.
Give it a name
Small children often just feel a mess of emotion, without really knowing what is going on. Unpleasant feelings like anger and sadness can sometimes feel very confusing. Help your child to make sense of it all by labeling the emotion. Say things like: “I can see that you are frustrated and that it’s making you angry” or “This song is really making you feel sad today, isn’t it?”
Intense emotions tend to only go away once they’ve been expressed. They need to be “aired out” in order to disappear, so make sure that you child knows you are really hearing her. That you understand her feelings. Because in order for you child to feel safe enough to express them, she needs to know that you are fully present.
Find more appropriate ways to express it
As we’ve said before: None of us can help feeling the feelings we feel. They just show up. Unannounced and uninvited. This is great when the emotions are pleasant, warm, fuzzy ones. But they can catch even grown-ups off guard when these feelings are negative.
Our goal is not stop the emotion from happening, but rather to help your child find more appropriate ways to express it. Teach him that going for run, boxing a punching bag or scrunching up some old newspaper is far more acceptable than socking his sister in the face. As children grow channeling these strong feelings into creative fields, like painting your anger or writing a song to express your sadness can be very therapeutic.
I’ve written a story book for young children to help them understand the need for appropriate expression. Click on the link below to download the book for free.
Teach problem solving
Dr. Laura Markham said it best: “Emotions are messages, not mud for wallowing”.
Teach your child to feel it, name it, express is (appropriately) and once the intensity of the emotion has passed work on problem-solving. This last aspect can take different forms. Maybe problem-solving involves helping your child find practical ways to prevent a frustrating situation from happening again. Like finding a separate box to put some of his special toys in – the ones he chooses not to share with his sister. At other times, your child may need to plan how to act in response to an upsetting situation. Like deciding how to confront a classmate who posted negative comments of her on social media.
Deciding how much involvement is required from you during the problem-solving process can be difficult. As far as possible, resist the urge to rush in and solve the problem for your child. But if they need help thinking of ideas feel free to offer a few suggestions. A good strategy is to let your child work on solving the problem on her own, but encourage her to run her ideas by you first before implementing it so that you can intervene if necessary. The more experience you child has in solving problems on her own, the more her confidence will grow in her ability to do so.
For more information about the importance of childhood development, or to book a consultation, contact Anel Annandale at 083 711 5267 or via email at email@example.com.