Emotional Intelligence and Children

Emotional intelligence is an important factor for anyone who works with children – from parents to teachers to coaches, the first step in a healthy relationship with children is balancing their emotional intelligence with more traditional ideas of intelligence. Most of what children learn about interacting with others comes from observing their parents and other adults in their lives. In this post, we have gathered information that will help you incorporate emotional intelligence into interactions with your children and other children you interact with.

Empathize

Children need to know you see situations from their perspectives. Sometimes, no one can fix the situations that disappoint them or make them sad or angry. But if your children know you understand how they feel, they’ll learn to accept those negative situations and emotions more gracefully. To show empathy, communicate what you observe. If your child is jealous of a new sibling, say, “I know you miss having Mommy to yourself. Maybe we can do something together later.” The more your children see you empathizing, the more they will empathize with others and reflect intelligently on their emotions.

Listen

Empathetic responses to emotions are important, but often there is no substitute for good listening skills. Sometimes kids don’t express their feelings out of fear their parents will be angry or fear they won’t understand. Let your child know it’s safe to express all feelings. Young children often don’t have the words for expression, so prompt them a bit. Say something like, “I see you’re sad and angry right now. Can you tell me about it?” Listening encourages children to express their emotions and may prevent tantrums.

Role Play

Kids learn by playing, and role-playing is a great way to help them understand emotions that can be big and confusing for them. They may not be able to identify the complex feelings they have about every situation or why those feelings are there. Role-playing allows children to identify and cope with complex emotions in a safe environment. Additionally, it helps them discharge pent-up emotions like worry and fear, which may provoke tantrums or defiant behavior. Finally, role-playing gives kids a safe outlet if they aren’t ready to talk through their emotions.

Keep Yourself Calm

The idea that kids pick up anxiety from their parents has been around for more than 100 years. The calmer you are, the calmer your child will be. Modulate your voice and avoid sudden, anxiety-based movements. Touch your child gently; do not pull or yank. If a situation is truly scary, maintain as much calm as you can. You can say something like, “I know you’re worried right now because this is scary, but we are here to take care of you.”

Don’t Distract

Many times, parents try to distract kids from their emotions. They might say, “Oh, the shot will only hurt for a minute” or “It’s not a big deal if the ice cream shop doesn’t have your favorite flavor.” Yet by trying to diffuse the situation, you can end up minimizing their emotions. This teaches children that what they feel is unimportant. Acknowledge what they’re feeling, even if you don’t understand it yourself. Encourage them to cope any way they want, as long as it’s constructive.

Now that you have some tools and tips for how to handle emotional intelligence and children, now is a great time to explore ways to increase your own personal emotional intelligence.

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