Guest Blog – Casual Case has been working with Smart Parent Advice to provide quality products. Our latest product focuses on the wellbeing of our students. Please read the following guest article and try our new ‘Mood Monitor’.
Author Bio: Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase.
The scene is familiar: your child is throwing a tantrum. The screams are loud and heartfelt; tears run down red cheeks; their body is in constant motion, tense, and full of energy.
How many parents have witnessed this scene? How many of us have watched and wondered what we could do to stop it?
Have you ever wondered if there’s something you can do to keep it from starting?
Possibly, the answer lies in fostering your child’s emotional intelligence.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the skill set of monitoring emotions: both your own and others’. It is also the ability to use those emotions to guide your thinking and actions.
While that sounds like a lot, most adults do this every day. Emotional intelligence develops over time, and most of us have a pretty good understanding of feelings once we are grown up.
We regulate our emotions, not allowing flashes of anger, annoyance, or disappointment to derail our day. Adults recognize signs of feelings in others and adjust their behavior accordingly. Maybe a coworker needs a little extra space today, or your spouse could use some peace and quiet to counteract stress.
What About Kids?
Young children don’t have the benefit of years and experience, but they begin developing their emotional intelligence on day one. Even infants can sense when their parents are stressed or worried, and they react to those feelings.
As your baby grows up and hits toddler and preschool ages, he will begin to notice more about himself and his surroundings. This is the time to start helping them develop emotional intelligence.
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Emotional intelligence has a strong link to the development of cognitive skills. In fact, higher emotional intelligence typically increases cognitive connections. And that’s not the only thing it helps.
Children with more advanced emotional intelligence are better able to explain their feelings and understand others’ feelings. Kids who understand feelings are more likely to be empathetic. Empathy leads to better personal relationships and friendships, even at young ages.
Outside of socializing, emotional intelligence affects a child’s attention span, as well as their ability to learn and remember new information.
So it’s not just feelings. Emotional intelligence affects every part of your child’s life.
How Can We Help?
There are several things that parents, caregivers, and teachers can do to help develop emotional intelligence in young children.
Give Them Words
Daycares and preschools often use pictures or mood meters to help kids identify how they are feeling.
These start off relatively simple, with one-word descriptions of feelings: happy, mad, sad, calm. As kids get more used to identifying their feelings (and the emotions of others), the descriptions become more nuanced, using words such as: curious, worried, scared, disappointed.
Giving children the language to express how they feel means they are less likely to act it out in other ways, such as throwing a tantrum or hitting another child.
Stories are powerful teaching tools. When you read a story to a child or group of children, you can help them identify the characters’ feelings.
You might ask how they think someone feels about losing a ball or call their attention to an illustration of a character crying and discuss what that means.
Talking about character feelings is a good way to practice recognizing others’ feelings and how their feelings might affect your actions.
Share Your Feelings
Just like with stories, kids learn by watching others. When parents explain their feelings to a child or tell a story about a time when they were excited or disappointed, it helps develop their emotional intelligence.
If you can, discuss your feelings like you would those in a story. Ask your child if they have ever felt that way, and what they did about it. In the beginning, you may have to help them come up with ideas, but over time, they will learn to recall their feelings on their own.
Get Them Involved
When your kids get involved in other activities, such as sports and games, they encounter various situations that will help them develop their emotional intelligence.
Playing games with others allows them to practice good sportsmanship and be aware of what it feels like to win and lose. When it comes to sports, it’s easy to get frustrated when you aren’t doing well or have to keep practicing something, and that’s an ideal opportunity to learn how to regular your emotions and keep going.
Children greatly benefit from developing emotional intelligence at an early age. In the first years of life, they are learning and absorbing information at a rapid rate. Their brains are open and ready to discover.
And you can help them discover their feelings and learn how to use them effectively. It’s a skill that grows and becomes more valuable with every passing day.