Parents across all cultures intuitively want their children to be successful in life. Supporting children's emotional development is vital because emotions play a critical role in our life: they guide all we do.
Learning to understand and manage emotions is a challenge for both children and adults.
I'm always invigorated with the positive results I see when training individuals to become more emotionally intelligent, which is an individual's ability to recognize, understand, and manage their feelings and those of others. Learning how to communicate one's emotions effectively, while interpreting and responding to others is key to success. Developing and strengthening your emotional intelligence is possible for all of us, including our children.
What can parents do to help children become more emotionally intelligent?
Essentially the earlier we educate our children to recognize and harness their emotions, the quicker they can develop their social skills and build successful relationships. Our brains are highly malleable, which allows us to retrain ourselves. Emotional Intelligence skills are not part of your child's school curriculum in most cases. Some of these skills are embedded in what they learn; however, it's not a crucial part of their core curriculum. Therefore, it's up to you to instill emotional intelligence into their upbringing; it's a learned skill that can be improved daily.
Build a strong relationship with your child.
The way children manage socially is dependent upon their interrelationship with their parents. Parents are strong role models, and from the moment a child is born, they observe their parents and caregivers and learn about the world around them. Their relationships with other children and adults teach them many life lessons. Without a doubt, developing friendships is a big part of family and community life and plays an integral role in a child's overall development and success.
Emotions send us signals that we need to pay attention to.
Keep in mind, our emotions and feelings send us important signals. We need to pay attention to them and consider the message, which is difficult at times. Judging our feelings prevents us from understanding them. It generates more emotions and reduces the possibility of understanding the initial feeling and working through it. If we as adults struggle with this, consider what young children go through.
Learn how to be an emotional coach.
We have all been an eye witness to a child when their emotions get hijacked, and they lose control of their behaviour in public. It's painful for the children and everyone involved! Parents respond to their children's emotions in a variety of ways, but the best way to deal with it to coach your child through the situation without judgment providing support to understand their feelings and problem-solve the matter.
Dr. Gottman recommends the following emotional coaching steps:
- Be aware of your child's emotions.
- See emotions as an opportunity for connection and teaching.
- Listen and validate the feelings.
- Label their emotions.
- Help your child problem-solve with limits.