Emotional intelligence, which is having awareness, control, and the ability to express one’s emotions in a responsible and empathetic manner, is something that should not be ignored, devalued, or assumed. It’s important that our children learn that having various emotions is not a bad or scary thing. Even experiencing anger. It’s how one responds to the emotion that is noticed and evaluated. We need to show our children that when we experience an emotion, whether positive or negative, we have to acknowledge the emotion, accept it, and then decide how we want to respond. Responding can include using a coping skill, asking for help, or expressing the emotion in a socially appropriate manner. If left underdeveloped, a lack of empathy and emotional awareness may ensue and possibly follow the child into adulthood affecting various aspects of their life.
How do you get started? Using an emotion or feelings chart is a great way to start the process of increasing emotional intelligence, and building on emotion related skills. The emotions chart provides the foundation to grow your child’s vocabulary and therefore encourages verbal expression, which will decrease acting out behaviors. A child uses behavior as a way to communicate. Therefore, when a child struggles with their vocabulary and verbal skills, they’ll often resort to acting out behaviors when angry, frustrated, or scared, as a way to communicate to the parent that they are in need of something.
How can parents help? Like a muscle, emotional intelligence needs to be stimulated and exercised frequently in order to maintain its progress and increase growth. Frequently talking to your child about their thoughts and feelings, encouraging verbal communication, and sharing your own emotions in an age appropriate manner are all supportive factors in growing emotional intelligence. For example, when a child comes home from school, the typical question is “how was your day?” If your child is only providing a one-word response, encourage them to elaborate. Asking questions like, “why was it good? what did you do during recess? who did you sit next to during lunch?” Encouraging and praising your child’s verbal communication is a great starting point. Then, move on to encouraging the use of emotion words such as “how did it make you feel when your friend invited you to play kickball during recess?”
Why do this? Sometimes children become frustrated when they’re trying to express themselves but cannot find the words to describe how they are feeling. As mentioned above, children will resort to behavioral expression when they are unable to verbalize the emotion they are feeling. For example, if a child is feeling enraged, an emotion more intense than feeling mad, but they are unable to label it properly, the child will resort to showing the parent their enraged feeling by displaying a tantrum. Therefore, after learning basic emotion words such as happy, sad, and angry, it’s important to move forward with broadening the emotion vocabulary to include variations of a basic emotion. Using angry as an example, a parent would then teach upset, enraged, frustrated, jealous, etc. And this is where the emotions chart can be super helpful. Broadening your child’s emotions vocabulary and their understanding of more sophisticated emotion words will give them the freedom to verbally express it rather than resort to nonverbal forms of expression. This, in turn, is one way to increase emotional intelligence.
If you want more information on how to increase your child’s emotional intelligence or if your child is in need of emotional support contact Dr. Jenna Del Valle for services at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency or crisis and needs immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. View additional mental health & crisis resources here.
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