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Enhancing Our Children's Emotional Intelligence

Dr. Carol Chu-Peralta April 2023

I invite you to imagine a time when you had overwhelming feelings, be it at the age of 3, 10, 15, young adulthood. Now imagine an adult coming over to you with compassion in their eyes, calmness in their stride, and directing their attention to you as though you were the only person in the room. They invite you to tell them what happened. They don’t promise you that everything will be OK; they don’t encourage you to focus on something else; they don’t try to “fix” it. They simply give you the space to feel. Is this the way your adult responded to you when you had those overwhelming feelings? Much of how we interact with our children, younger or older, is influenced by how our emotions were handled growing up. Now this is not intended to be the ‘blame game,’ but rather an opportunity for us to become more aware and intentional with how we build our children’s ability to deal with their feelings and those of others. In other words, it’s a golden opportunity for us to enhance their emotional intelligence.  

What does love mean? Classic existential question, right?! Let me put it into context for you. That question, ‘What does love mean?’ can serve the function of guiding our behaviors when we interact with our children. Acting with the intention of showing love is a beautiful and helpful way to raise our children’s emotional intelligence through our interactions. It is also a huge responsibility because everything you do is a different way of how you show love to your kids – how you react, don’t react, show up, don’t show up, handle them, fail them – they all define what love means to them and they are listening carefully. So, I invite you to be intentional about how you handle your day-to-day with your children, because we get the opportunity to help our children every time we interact with them. 

Here are some concrete tips of how to interact with intention in order to raise your child’s emotional intelligence:

Be aware of your own emotions and recognize what YOU need in that moment to be calm and available to your child.  

TIPS to induce calmness before talking to your child: Take several deep breaths, place your hands under cold water, or reframe your own thoughts

Be aware of your child’s emotions. Children, regardless of age, might not verbalize their emotions well when they’re in distress.  

TIPS: Invite them to explain what happened to them without interrupting them. Try understanding their perspective as they narrate their experience, rather than judge or think of a solution.

Listen and validate their feelings.  

TIPS: Give them your full attention and reflect back what you heard them tell you.

After they finish sharing, notice if they struggled identifying their emotions.  

TIPS: Offer the man emotional word bank and see if any of the emotions resonate. This helps build their emotional vocabulary.

Do not try to ‘fix’ the problem.  

TIPS: Move to a place of curiosity where you ask them questions about how they would like to deal with the situation. It will give you insight about what they need from you, whether it be advice or having a problem-solving brainstorming session with you.

Witnessing our children experience a strong emotion can be a harrowing feeling. One that will move us to ‘save’ them from their psychological distress. Enduring some psychological distress is not unproductive, though. And, sometimes, the best way to come out on the other end is to have the space to walk through the emotions, rather than run away from them.

Written By: Dr. Carol Chu-Peralta, Ph.D.
Published By: Park Ridge Living

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