Emotionally healthy kids are better equipped to cope effectively with life challenges. A kid who has developed emotional regulation skills is more likely to develop better relationships. Emotional regulation is associated with many positive outcomes, but how do you know whether or not your kid is emotionally healthy?
Here are a few characteristics of emotionally healthy kids.
1 | An emotionally healthy kid is aware of his/her emotions
An emotionally healthy kid is one who has learnt to identify his or her emotions. He is able to tell the different emotions apart and identify what he’s feeling. Teaching kids to identify their emotions using age-appropriate strategies is the first step in helping them develop their emotional intelligence.
2 | An emotionally healthy kid is aware of others’ emotions
Emotions are everywhere. An emotionally healthy kid is not only able to identify her own emotions, she is also able to identify the emotions of others. In other words, she can accurately describe other people’s emotions either by looking at them or by listening to the tone of their voice. There are multiple opportunities to teach kids to identify others’ emotions. For instance, helping your kid accurately describe the emotions displayed in a book she is reading can help her become more aware of others’ emotions.
3 | An emotionally healthy kid is empathetic
Freud thought that kids were way too egocentric to care about other’s feelings. He has repeatedly been proven wrong. Even from age two, kids are capable of displaying empathy-related behavior. For instance, a toddler can show concern or give hugs to people who look distressed. When we help our kids cultivate empathy, we also help them develop their emotion regulation skills.
4 | An emotionally healthy kid knows what triggers his/her emotions
Some emotions are already pre-wired into our brains at birth, but we learn many other emotions from our experiences and our social and cultural contexts.
A kid’s display of strong emotions reflects his or her emotional reaction to a specific situation. For instance, a kid thrown into the deep end of the pool to teach him how to swim might feel anxious or scared every Friday if he has swimming lessons on Fridays. Depending on the situation, this anxiety can also trigger other emotions such as shame. In other words, his shame can be triggered by his inability to manage his anxiety.
An emotionally-healthy kid knows what triggers his emotions and is thus better able to identify appropriate ways to deal with emotion-provoking situations. For example, he knows which situations to walk away from and which situations he needs to learn to cope with.
5 | An emotionally healthy kid develops techniques to help him deal with strong emotions
The ultimate goal of helping kids develop emotion regulation skills is to help them learn to manage their emotions by themselves. We can’t always be there to help our kids deal with their emotions, which is why it’s important to provide them with an appropriate framework in which they can learn to deal with their emotions by themselves. An emotionally healthy kid knows how to identify the symptoms of strong emotions – sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat – and what to do to calm down – go to your quiet space, ride a bike, jump on the trampoline. In other words, an emotionally healthy kid doesn’t need you to be there to react appropriately to his or her emotions.
6 | An emotionally healthy kid knows that emotions are normal
Emotionally healthy kids know that their emotions are valid. They know that everyone has emotions. An emotionally healthy kid knows that although she might not be able to avoid or control emotion-provoking situations, she can control how she reacts to them.
Helping kids develop their emotional intelligence is a process that involves helping them identify emotions, guiding them to identify their triggers and providing them an appropriate framework to help them learn to cope with those emotions by themselves. These simple and age-appropriate resources can help strengthen your child’s emotional intelligence.