Author Bio: Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.
With all of the adults in the world today struggling to process their emotions, it’s no surprise that a child, who hasn’t yet matured enough to understand the world, would also have trouble handling all of their many feelings.
Children deal with the same types of emotions adults do, but they don’t have the intelligence or the vocabulary they need to express them in a healthy way. It’s up to us to ensure that our children grow to understand and process their emotions in a way that’s not harmful to them or others.
There are several things you can do to help your child develop emotional intelligence, and if you do it now, they’ll be able to manage them easier later.
1. Accept them.
Acceptance and emotional health starts at home. Accepting them for who they are will help them thrive in a healthy way, and not just emotionally. They’ll be more physically and mentally healthy, too.
They need your unconditional love, which sometimes translates to firm, but caring discipline. They need to know that when they make a mistake, you will be there to love and support them, which gives them self confidence. They can learn from their mistakes without fear of rejection, and move on.
Part of accepting them means listening to their feelings and praising them for sharing. This will encourage them to continue coming to you when they have a problem, rather than bottling it up inside or trying to deal with it on their own.
You can acknowledge how they feel and give helpful tips on how to deal with their feelings. It’s much the same as you venting to a friend when you feel frustrated. Your child will know they have someone they can trust when they need it.
2. Teach coping.
When your child does come to you with a problem, your role is to comfort, but also teach them how to cope with those feelings. Emotions are overwhelming for children, especially when they can’t articulate them and they don’t know why they feel the way they do.
Your experience can guide them in a healthy way, especially after you praise them for recognizing and expressing their issues. Every child is different, but there are techniques you can try that may calm them down.
Listening to music, doing deep breathing exercises, and using essential oils tend to relax the mind and body. Coloring or cuddling for a few minutes has been proven to reduce stress as well.
There are a lot of social-emotional activities you can explore with your child that will help them learn how to express and handle these raw, deep emotions.
3. Remain consistent.
I’ve never met a parent who liked to discipline their child, but it’s necessary to set boundaries and give appropriate consequences. Your child will begin to understand boundaries and develop a moral compass.
This sense of right and wrong will strengthen their emotional intelligence. Knowing what’s considered acceptable will prevent harm to self and others. They’ll be able to develop healthier relationships with friends and establish trust.
4. Stay active.
Emphasizing physical health will reinforce emotional and mental health. Your child needs to be active and in healthy condition physically. Being strong and healthy will give them self confidence while physical exercise and a balanced diet will support their emotional growth.
Make sure they have plenty of engaging and challenging places to play inside and out. You can set up a playroom and give them a space to explore in your home, with or without you. They also need spaces and toys with which to play outside.
While getting your child active may not be a problem when they’re young, it’s important to set this healthy trend now so they’ll be more inclined to do it as their metabolism slows.
As they get older, continue to encourage physical activity or ensure that they’re a part of a sports team, which can also help strengthen their emotional intelligence with camaraderie and teamwork. It will give them an opportunity to learn how to lose - gracefully.
Learning how to lose now is a lesson in understanding they won’t always be the best at everything, but that hard work and dedication pay off.
5. Find perspective.
Your child is one in a world of billions of different types of people. From differences in gender, religion, culture, and opinion, they can learn that these differences are a good thing. Your child can broaden their understanding of the world through study or interaction with different people.
They’ll begin to think more openly about world problems and be able to explore other perspectives, which enables problem solving and critical thinking. It could spark creativity, but it will most definitely heighten their emotional intelligence.
As a parent, you know that sometimes emotions get the better of you. Even as an adult. Your child will still have outbursts and throw fits. They won’t be highly emotionally intelligent at 10, or 15, or even when they head off to college.
But with your love and support, they’ll learn that there’s always someone to listen and offer suggestions, and there’s always a way to cope with what they’re feeling.
They’ll be more compassionate toward others and they’ll likely be smarter. A high emotional intelligence has been linked to a high IQ, so striving for this early may mean your child is more successful later on.
No matter what, they’ll know you’re always there for them.