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Can Your Child Develop Emotional Intelligence?


Children often have the ability to learn quickly from particular scenarios, especially if the scenario ends with a negative consequence.  When we grow up, who hasn’t quickly learned that touching a hot stove would cause pain to our hand or fingers? But what about learning from emotional cues and signals? This is not altogether always a simple process for many to perceive and act upon.  The concept of helping to develop emotional intelligence in children is not a new one, but it has been gaining more popularity in recent years as methods of improving the mind, managing stress and mental health issues and an overall awareness continues to grow throughout the country.

Emotional intelligence is often defined incorrectly when it is discussed in the mainstream media; it isn’t necessarily a type of personality trait. More or less, it can be defined as several things: the distinct ability to be able to identify one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, being able to then take these recognized emotions and be able to utilize them in a specific application such as problem solving or critical thinking, and finally the ability to self-manage these particular emotions. One would be able to calm oneself down and avoid letting a buildup of negative emotions continue, as well as being able to speak to others and address their emotions and provide positive communication with them as well.

So what can we do to help our children build their emotional intelligence, in order to lead more productive and healthy lives as they grow, especially in regards to dealing with potential behavioral health challenges?

One method of helping to build EI, or “emotional intelligence” is to be there and empathize with your child when they are dealing with particularly negative emotions.  Even if there is nothing you can do for them in the immediate term, as human beings, we all tend to react more positively when we feel cared for and understood.  The whole purpose of empathizing is not that we have to agree with the child, but that we can also fully understand their viewpoint in addition to our own. When children experience empathy, it gives them a better chance to start developing it on their own and for their future.

Allow for a child to be able to express their feelings with conscious direction and a focus on discussing the ramifications of their actions and thought patterns; if as a parent you disapprove of their reactions or emotions in a negative way, it can lead to the repression of these feelings, which is not an ideal situation. A better method is to instead try and teach your child that having emotions is a natural part of being a human being, yet there are consequences that are defined by what we say and how we react at times. Help highlight to them what types of emotional reactions should be limited and why.  In doing so, you will help to shape your child and promote a healthier emotional intelligence as they navigate through each obstacle in their lives.

These are the types of skills that will help your child be successful throughout their entire life – the sooner you are able to discuss how to react correctly to particular emotional instances as well as being able to evaluate their feelings consistently and realistically, the easier it will be for your child to make adjustments in their everyday lives as they continue to grow and get older. There are actually five different elements to consider when it comes to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, empathy, social skills, self-regulation, and internal motivation. A continual emphasis on these components of emotional intelligence can make all the difference in the world.

The ultimate point is to engage in a dialogue with your kids and to encourage them to not be afraid of dealing with and engaging with their emotions. Instead of trying to hide it, allow it to take place and set aside time to discuss exactly what happened and how they can continue to gain emotional intelligence.

It’s a great opportunity to focus on your kids and building their emotional intelligence up. As a mental health facility, we often can see a stark difference between patients who do and don’t have emotional intelligence, no matter what their age.  Make these changes in improvements in your own life, and you will undoubtedly be an example to your children and what is accepted and OK to perform on an emotional level.


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