Mental Health//

How to Be Smart About Feelings: Nurture Emotional Intelligence in Children

Your child’s emotions are important — let them feel it and explore it fully and adequately.

Asia Images Group / Shutterstock
Asia Images Group / Shutterstock

For a long time, emphasis was given to intelligent quotient (IQ) and schools focused more on measuring it through academic scores. Lately, the concept of multiple intelligences has become widely popular and has paved the way for exploring different types of intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is one such area that has come into the limelight. Schools, teachers, and parents
now understand the need for children to be more aware of their emotions in order to act on them appropriately.

What is emotional Intelligence?

Quite simply, emotional intelligence is your ability to be smart about your or others’ feelings. If you are able to notice, understand, and act on your emotions in a helpful way, you are considered to be high on emotional quotient (EQ). This becomes very important as it helps you control your emotions in different situations.

Fortunately, emotional intelligence can be developed over time. One can easily train their brain to have a higher level of self-awareness, self-regulation, and even empathy, all contributing to a high EQ. Typically, the amygdala part of the brain controls emotions and the prefrontal cortex
helps regulate the emotions appropriately.

Nurturing this skill during the early years helps children flourish and succeed. Studies show that emotional intelligence predicts over 54% of the variation in success in terms of relationships, health, quality of life, and effectiveness.

Do you wish to raise an emotionally intelligent child and are wondering where to begin? Here are some tips to get you started.

Take on your child’s viewpoint: Sometimes just empathizing with your child can do wonders. Just being understood triggers soothing chemicals in the brain, helping the child feel better. Helping your child reflect on their feelings and naming the feelings is an early tool in learning to manage the emotions that can flood them. Simply empathizing with your kid may be insufficient to teach them to manage their feelings, because they still feel that they’re at the mercy of their emotions. Honoring the feelings may help the child feel more empowered to deal with them.

Let them express themselves: Try not to deny or minimize how they’re feeling, it may be understood as unacceptable by them. Certain negative emotions like fear and anger and often considered “bad” or “wrong.” Disapproving the negative emotions won’t stop them from having those feelings, but it may well force them to repress them. Unfortunately, repressed feelings don’t fade away, they get trapped. Instead, you can teach that the full range of feelings is understandable and part of being human, even while some actions must be limited. Further, your acceptance teaches your child that her emotional life is not dangerous, is not shameful,
and in fact, is universal and manageable.

Hear what they have to say: Whether your child is 6 months old or sixteen years old, they need you to listen to the feelings they’re expressing. To feel safe letting those feelings up and out, they need to know you’re fully present and listening. Kids have an amazing ability to let their
feelings wash over and out, leaving them relaxed and cooperative. All you need to do is stay present. When you help your child feel safe enough to feel and express their emotions, you do not only heal their psyches and bodies; you help them trust their own emotional process
without tantrums or repression.
Guide them towards problem-solving: Teach your child to breathe through their emotions, feel them, tolerate them without needing to act on them. When your child is able to resolve their feelings, there will be more room for problem-solving. Sometimes, kids can do this themselves.
Sometimes, they need your help to brainstorm. Show confidence in them by allowing them to explore the options, you can add on or guide them when necessary. Kids need to express their feelings, but they also need to know how to shift gears to find constructive solutions to problems. That takes practice and modeling on our part.

Sometimes this kind of emotion coaching may happen quickly. Other times, it may take a great deal of time. Patience is key. Take your time, take assistance, involve other people if necessary. Your child’s emotions are important, let them feel it and explore it fully and adequately. A high
level of EQ has the potential to make your child successful in the future.

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