Emotions can run your entire life if you let them. When you’re taught, from as early as childhood, to view emotions as negative things, you are likely to struggle with difficult emotions even in adulthood. The thing is, the conversations we have around emotions and how we are taught to react to them have a big impact on the development of our emotional intelligence, and this is true even for toddlers.
It is common for your kid to be submerged with difficult emotions during the childhood years. How you react to your kid’s emotional states will teach him either to view big emotions as normal and manageable, or as abnormal states that should be repressed.
The positive impact of developing your child’s emotional intelligence is undeniable. We now know that talking to young kids about emotions strengthens their emotional intelligence. Indeed, the evidence is beyond doubt: emotionally intelligent kids feel better, act better and have less social, psychological and behavioral issues.
We also know that the pressures of modern life are unlikely to relent in the coming years. In other words, kids need all the help they can get to be able to rise above the many challenges they will undoubtedly encounter. Today, more than ever, we need to change the conversations surrounding our kid’s emotions. Below are four common misconceptions that have an impact on the development of your kid’s emotional intelligence:
1) My kid will start acting better as soon as he understands about emotions
We now know that much of kids’ behavior is driven by emotions. We also know that when you help your kid better manage his emotions using age-appropriate strategies, emotion-driven behavior decreases. However, developing your child’s emotional intelligence is a lengthy task that requires patience and persistence. While it is not a complex affair, it is a long-term endeavour. Your child will not develop his emotional intelligence overnight, but he will do so with time. An emotionally intelligent kid will still have meltdowns, but these will decrease with time and will be less intense once he learns how to deal with difficult emotions.
2) Concealing emotions makes them go away
Nothing is as common as emotional invalidation. The invalidation of our emotions is everywhere. We are constantly sent messages that tell us our emotions are irrational, unreasonable, or exaggerated. What we so often fail to understand is that invalidating emotions does not make them go away.
Telling your son to “stop crying like a baby” is emotionally invalidating, much in the same way as telling your daughter “it’s nothing” when she’s just scraped her knee. There is now evidence that refusing to view your child’s emotions as valid and encouraging her to conceal them instead can lead to psychological issues in adolescence or even in adulthood.
Validating your kids’ emotions means giving them opportunities to express their emotions and deal with them in a socially-appropriate manner: “I understand you’re upset because you can’t play anymore . What else can you do to feel better?” This response not only shows your kid that his feelings are valid, it also helps him learn that difficult emotions can be managed.
3) Tantrums emerge “suddenly”
It is common to hear about kids whose “tantrum appeared from nowhere.” The truth is, unless your child has a behavioral disorder, tantrums rarely begin “suddenly”. All kids throw tantrums. Your kid might throw a tantrum because of his psychological or even physical state.
In other words, your kid’s tantrums may be triggered by emotions such as anxiety or even by hunger or fatigue. Understanding your kid’s triggers is key. If certain situations make your kid nervous, being attentive to his triggers can help you manage difficult emotions before they get out of hand. Teaching your child to be aware of his triggers (for example sweaty palms when anxious) and helping him come up with appropriate strategies to deal with those triggers can help develop his emotional intelligence. Resources such as The Emotions Kit can help teach your kid to identify emotions, better understand his triggers, and help him come up with an effective strategy he can use when in need.
4) Strong adults do not show their emotions
If you are told long enough that strong adults are supposed to hide their emotions, you learn to believe it. If you are told that showing your emotions is a sign of weakness, you learn to hide those emotions.
The problem is that whether you like it or not, you serve as a model for your kid. In other words, your kid learns to react to her emotions by watching how you react to yours. For instance, telling your kid that you are nervous before going for an interview lets her know that everyone experiences big emotions. Better still, telling her you’re going to listen to some music to calm down teaches her that difficult emotions can be overcome.
The thing to remember about developing your kid’s emotional intelligence is that you have to take it one day at a time. Be patient and remember that there are many simple and age-appropriate ways to foster his emotional intelligence. Helping your child identify and name both his emotions and those of others is an important phase in the development of her emotional intelligence. Verbalizing her emotions (“I understand you’re angry”) or your own, or even asking your child how she thinks a TV character feels is a great way to get the conversation around emotions going. Join my FREE EMAIL COURSE to get more practical and easy to apply tips.