Emotional Intelligence helps children understand themselves and others by communicating and handling unpleasant feelings. Both now and later in life, it can help them develop and maintain relationships. You can instill emotional intelligence in your child by becoming an emotion coach.
There are 4 parts to defining emotional intelligence.
- Teach your child to recognize, identify, and name emotions.
Can your child tell when they are sad, angry, or scared? Do they know the body sensations that accompanies each feeling? To do this print out an emotion chart, you can find many on the internet. A few times a day, morning, after school, dinner, or bedtime, ask your child to identify how they are feeling and what is happening that they are feeling this way. I would avoid asking why, because why can put us on the defensive. Also, avoid the term makes you feel- because nothing makes you feel a certain why. Then ask where the emotion is felt in their body- the head, heart, stomach… If they are unsure try a body scan.
Books to help promote emotional awareness and identification:
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain https://amzn.to/34Zqxp5
- In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek https://amzn.to/2SjdqMO
- The Color Monster by Anna Llenas https://amzn.to/3z9K18h
- Double Dip Feelings by Barbara Cain https://amzn.to/3v3Hs4v
- Emotional intelligence is the ability to express emotions in a way that is effective.
The best way to do this is by using I statements. I feel_______ when___________ because_________. I would like____________ instead. This allows them to express their feelings and communicate an alternative behavior. For example, I feel angry when Johnny hits me because it hurts. I would like him to stop. The other piece of this is how children behave when big emotions take over. Help them to find healthy and appropriate expressions for their feelings. I know you had a hard day at school, how can you show me that besides throwing your backpack at the door?
- Manage and regulate emotions.
There are many types of breathing exercises that are good for allowing children to regulate. A few include square breathing, finger breathing, and my favorite is to use bubbles. Other grounding techniques include using our bodies such as muscle relaxation, self-massage, stretching, rocking, and dance breaks. Practice these skills when your child is in a regulated state, so they can then access them when needed.
Books to promote emotions management and regulation:
- Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail https://amzn.to/3zmylPQ
- Little Big Feelings by Deb Mills https://amzn.to/3gkZn18
- Bubble Riding by Lori Lite https://amzn.to/3irR9qU
- Jared’s Cool Out Space by Jane Nelsen https://amzn.to/3iqnrlW
- Feeling empathy for others
The best way to do this is to reflect your child’s emotions to them. I see you are sad Suzie cannot come over to play or, You are excited to play outside with your puppy this afternoon. Also, wonder with your child how others might be feeling. If you are reading a book and the character falls down, just simply say I wonder how they feel right now… or utilize pets, I wonder what Fido feels when he doesn’t get fed in the morning.
Books to promote empathy and social skills:
- ABC’S of Emotions by Camille Childs and Bryan Jones https://amzn.to/3pzNF6U
- The Way I Act by Steve Metzger https://amzn.to/3w6DY2n
- Fill A Bucket by Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin https://amzn.to/3g5AGah
- That Fruit is Mine by Anuska Allepuz https://amzn.to/2TT2RAv
This outlines the four definitions of emotional intelligence and how you can begin to coach your children to learn about their feelings. There are some other key elements in being an emotion coach for your child.
Teach your child that all emotions are ok. There are no bad or good feelings. Everyone has lots of different emotions, it becomes troublesome when we do not express and manage them in healthy ways.
Encourage your child to express their emotions through play. Play is children’s natural language to express emotions. Also, look for my upcoming blog about how to set-up and schedule special play times at home for you and your child.
Toys to promote emotional awareness:
- Mini Meebie https://orkidtoys.com/meebie-mini/
- Breathe Like a Bear 30 Mindfulness Activities for Children by Kira Willey https://amzn.to/3waZvqY
- Real People Feeling Face Cards https://amzn.to/2RxQads
- Emotion Emoji Foam Dice https://amzn.to/3pwzQ9m
Finally, model emotional intelligence in yourself. Show your child feeling emotions is ok. Express your emotions out loud, so they can see how you manage them. I am frustrated this jar won’t open. I’m going to try using this rubber cloth to help. Drop me a comment and let me know if you struggle to manage your own emotions at times.
Your child’s mastery of understanding and regulating their emotions will help them to succeed in life in a myriad of different ways – they will be more self-confident, perform better in social and academic situations, and even become physically healthier.
If you would like to delve into this topic further sign up for my upcoming webinar, Social-Emotional Awareness for Children: How to be a Parent Coach.