Emotional intelligence is such an important part of life. Kids who have emotional intelligence have better attention spans, better social skills which lead to better relationships and are more empathic. This is going to help kids at home, at school and when interacting with their friends and peers.
What is emotional intelligence?
The concept of emotional intelligence is simply a person’s ability to understand and monitor their own emotions, and the emotions of others, as well as be able to use their emotions to guide their thinking and actions. This means that people with strong emotional intelligence can manage their emotions well and don’t get lost in high negative emotions.
“Your emotional awareness and ability to handle feelings will
determine your success and happiness in life.”
~ Dr. John Gottman
What can parents do day to day to build a child’s emotional intelligence?
- Accept, acknowledge and empathize with their child’s feelings – Children develop empathy by experiencing it from others. Helping kids reflect on their own feelings and experiences and what triggered their big feelings helps them build their emotional skills. We can also talk with them about how they are feeling by asking “I wonder if you are feeling….” This helps them think through and name their feelings.
- Don’t punish them for emotions or try to distract them from their feelings – all feelings and emotions are important. Both negative and positive emotions and need to be felt. However sometimes the actions taken as a result may not be okay – like hitting or kicking.
- Coach kids through emotions – Children need to learn how to move through emotions to get to the other side. This is the biggest way they learn emotional regulation skills. This is where coaching from parents can help. We can talk to them about what they can do to help when emotions are high – like squeezing a stress ball, taking deep breaths or doing mindfulness exercises. Teach mindfulness exercises – Mindfulness is wonderful because it teach people to manage their feelings, improve choice making and increase emotional intelligence skills. It gives children the oportunity to take a pause and when emotions are high and notice the physical sensations happening in their body, which in turn helps them develop self awareness. Kids can practice mindfulness techniques both on their own and with their parents. The Zenimal is a great resource for mindfulness excerises for kids.
- Help children learn to problem solve – Problem-solving skills takes practice and modeling from parents. This doesn’t mean we tell them what to do when they encounter a problem but we help teach and guide them to come up with solutions themselves.
Emotional intelligence activities parents can use.
- Read stories with your children. Kids love reading with their parents. Sitting down with young children and looking through picture books can be a time to build their understanding of basic emotions. We can pause during the book to talk about the characters feelings and motivations as well as having kids decode the emotions on the faces of the characters pictured. You can also do the same as you watch TV together.
- Play the Mirror game. Put different feelings in a hat. Sit in front of the mirror with your child and take turns acting out the emotions you pick out from the hst. Younger children especially love this game as it can lead to giggles and some silliness. Just make sure that you don’t exaggerate your expression of the emotion too much. The goal with this activity is to help children understand and recognise the subtlety in facial expressions.
- Use a Check In Board – Children are not so good at providing details about their day. Especially when we ask a lot of questions. This helps ease kids into talking about their feelings and their day. Use a large piece of poster board and create little pockets on it. Paste one feelings picture on the outside of each pocket. Each family can have a popsicle stick in a blank pocket. At the end of each day everyone can put their popsicle stick in the pocket that matches their feelings. The Chick In Board is a simple way to encourage kids to think about how they felt during the day instead of listing events that happened. It also opens the door for parents to ask more questions and parents are role modeling and helping kids understand more about the feelings of others as each family member talks about their popsicle stick placement.
- Try puppet play or role play – Puppet play is a good way to act out social situations and encourage emotional expression in a safe environment. Kids love to work through their emotions during play. Parents can use puppet play to connect and process big feelings. They can pretend to be their child or the other person in the social situation and their child can take on the other role. It can feel fun and non-threatening because the person expressing the feelings is outside of them. They can also practice their communication skills and conflict resolution by role playing different ways to respond should the same situation come up next time.
- Play board games about emotions – One great board game is Train of Thought. This game helps kids make emotional connections as they ask and answer thoughtful questions and complete fun challenges. Some questions are even difficult for parents, so it really gets everyone’s brains thinking.
We love our kids more than anything. One of the biggest things we can do to help them have success in life is to help build their emotional quotient (EQ) because IQ is only a small part of the equation to success, because this helps them become happy, resilient, balanced adults. The earlier we start working on that end goal, the better.
If you found this exploration of emotional intelligence building strategies useful, please share them with others! If you need more professional help, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We love meeting parents and helping them feel more calm and confident with their parenting. You don’t need to be in crisis to ask for help, to want to learn more about your child.