Teaching Emotional Intelligence to Children

One might think that most of us should be experts at having emotional intelligence. It does seem common sense to be able to identify and understand what emotions are and what they look like in ourselves and others.

Psychology Today describes emotional intelligence as:

“… At least three skills: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and cheering up or calming down other people.”

Emotional regulation goes beyond just being able to label and identify emotions. It also includes being able to feel an emotion, but still be able to think logically. It is learning coping skills to help manage the emotions that you and those around you feel so that you can calm down and move past the emotion.

If you are anything like me, then you may have had times where you lost control of your temper and lashed out at a loved one or were so sad that you ate the whole Ben and Jerry’s carton to emotionally eat. Sound familiar?

If you can relate, then it’s proof that one, we’re human and two, that it is a hard skill to master. It is one that MANY adults still struggle with.

This is why teaching our children emotional intelligence at a young age can be a game changer.

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5 STEPS OF EMOTION COACHING YOUR CHILD

Step 1: Be Aware of your child’s emotions.

Kids many times do not know how to express how they feel. To help emotion coach your child you must be aware and sensitive to your child’s feelings.

Pay attention to your child’s posture and their tone of voice. Is their head down? Are their fists clenched? What are they saying with their tone of voice?

All of these are insights into what your child is feeling and can help you understand them better.

Step 2: Recognize emotion as an opportunity for connection or teaching.

Once you have recognized your child’s emotion you are then able to use it as a teaching moment. You may have to use some of your own emotional regulation when teaching an angry or upset child, especially starting out.

Recognize that your child’s emotions are not a challenge or inconvenience. They are facing something that upsets them and they have not learned how to deal with the emotions they are feeling. This is why they act out or have tantrums.

Step 3: Help your child verbally label their emotions.

Next, ask your child how they feel. Allow them to express in words the emotions they are feeling and the reason they are feeling that way.

This is a teaching opportunity to help your child develop an awareness and a new vocabulary for the way they feel.

Step 4: Communicate empathy and understanding.

State back to your child what they said to make sure you understand how they feel. Understanding your child and listening to them will make them feel loved, heard, and important.

As you speak with your child make sure to make eye-contact and encourage them to use eye-contact as well. Eye-contact helps build a connection between people and helps them feel heard.

This will create an opportunity to connect with your child and teach them that it’s okay to express how they feel and learn to work through challenging emotions. Your listening to them will help soothe them as they work through their emotions and will help them develop the ability to self-soothe as they grow.

Step 5: Set limits and problem solve.
Teach your child that it is okay to feel angry, sad, annoyed, happy, anxious, etc, but that not all behaviors are acceptable. This will help your child learn appropriate ways to cope with their emotions and problem solve. Limit their expression to appropriate behaviors.

Be patient with your child. Remember, adults still struggle to mange their own emotions and emotional intelligence. children are learning this skill for the first time and will need more time to develop this skill. Also, remember that each child is unique and may take more or less time than one of their siblings.

Focus on connecting with your child and building that loving, safe, and open relationship. Your patience and consistency will help them develop this vital skill.

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