Five ways to develop your children’s emotional intelligence
Equipping your children with the essential emotional life skills they’ll need to manage the challenges that day to day life throws at them, will help to build their confidence and resilience as they grow as children and into young adults. Sounds easy, right? Of course it’s not, because if it was we’d never see a child (or parent!) having a meltdown in a supermarket again. Most adults struggle to express their emotions, so it’s no wonder our children can feel overwhelmed and frustrated when they are trying to navigate through the emotional rollercoaster that is life.
As parents we’re never really taught how to help our children develop these important skills. In fact, we often (unintentionally) say and do things that will go on to have a profound impact on the way our children will think, feel and act as adults.
The more we can do to help children develop emotional self-awareness and show them ways of expressing their emotions, the better equipped they’ll be at identifying their emotions, which will make everyone’s life easier and happier.
So, where to start? Here’s some practical and easy tips on how to begin to develop your child's emotional intelligence…
- Help them become emotionally self-aware
Talk, talk and talk some more. How many times are we told by the media and celebrities to talk, and we probably do that as adults, but how often do we do it with our children? By encouraging them to talk about their feelings - not just naming the feeling, but describing the physical sensations that are accompanying the feeling, it will help them to become aware of why they feel the way they do and it’ll help you understand more about what is going on in their minds. Being able to label an emotion, particularly a "hot" emotion, such as anger, can take the intensity away and can help a child to behave in a calmer manner. For example, expressing anger as "I am feeling angry" rather than "I AM angry. Building emotional self-awareness as a child will help them become an emotionally intelligent adult.
- Build their Empathy
Understanding emotions and how each one feels helps children to build their empathy towards others. A great way to do this is by talking about their favourite characters in books and films and asking them questions like, "What are the characters feeling? "How can you tell the characters are feeling that way?" "Why might they be feeling that way?". You could even get your children to role play their favourite characters. This will help them to start recognising emotions and how they react to them.
- Develop their self-regard
Changing the way we talk to our children when they’re naughty can help change the way they behave. Now this is easier said than done when someone has just scribbled on your elephant's breath wall in magenta crayon, but think about it, if you tell them "YOU’RE A VERY NAUGHTY GIRL!" they are going to believe it. After all, the one person that they believe above anyone else has just told them they are naughty, so it must be true. Whereas if you say "That is naughty behaviour and it is not acceptable" they can identify that the behaviour is naughty and they then have a choice to behave differently.
- Get flexible
And I’m not talking about stretches and exercises in the garden (although that’s also a great way to get them some fresh air and give you some peace 😉).
Flexing the routine occasionally will help them understand that change is okay and exciting. This helps them to start learning how to adapt feelings, thoughts and behaviours. One of my twins has a pink cup, the other a blue cup. I accidentally mixed the lids up one day and one twin had a complete melt down. It made me realise that completely sticking to the same all the time wasn’t helping them to learn to adapt. So, I’ve started making small daily changes, like for example changing the side of the car they sit in, and who gets to come out of the car first. It all helps them to get used to the idea that change is okay and can be fun.
- Show them how to be optimistic
How many times have you heard your children say: "I can't"? It can be frustrating for you to hear and actually the truth is, they probably can’t…yet. So, encouraging them to add "yet" to the sentence. "I can't yet..." gives them the opportunity to try until they can. Once they have achieved whatever it is, then this shows them that a positive mindset can lead to success.
For more ideas on how to develop your children’s emotional intelligence skills, take a look at my simple and free, downloadable tools.