5 Tips for Boosting Your Kid’s Emotional Intelligence
As your child grows from an infant to a toddler to a kindergarten-aged kid, they're bound to discover all sorts of things regarding their minds and emotions. From giggling to temper tantrums, it can be difficult for young kids to fully understand their emotions and keep them under control — this is a normal part of growing up, however! With that in mind, however, your child stands to gain a lot from learning about and coping with their often strong emotions, no matter their age. Whether it's finding the right words to express themselves, or pinpointing what exactly may be triggering a strong emotion, or spotting those same emotions in others, young children may greatly benefit from a bit of guidance when it comes to their feelings.
We've gathered up 5 tips to help you and your child better develop their emotional intelligence, ones that you can use on a regular basis to help your kid down the path of understanding their feelings and coping with difficult emotions.
Teach Your Kid Some Emotional Vocab
One thing us adults take for granted is our ability to express what we feel. We have a word for almost every type of emotion we encounter on a regular basis, whether it's good, bad or otherwise.
This privilege isn't one young kids enjoy, however! When you're a child and don't quite know how to express yourself, it can be a frustrating situation, especially when it seems the adults in your life don't understand you. This often leads upset or sad children to act out, throw tantrums, scream, throw things, and do other not-nice things. A great way to help alleviate these issues in your child is to teach them emotional vocabulary: assign a word, preferably a simpler one, to an emotion they feel as they're feeling it, and they will be better equipped to handle and express it in the future.
This can help de-complicate complex emotions in your child as well. For instance, if something has put them in a mood that doesn't fit neatly into one word, such as when they're a little sad and a little mad, your kid can more easily deconstruct and communicate exactly how they feel.
Utilize a Facial Expression Emotion Chart
Sometimes words aren't enough to get across how they truly feel. If your child's emotional vocabulary isn't doing the trick, a great alternative is to use a facial expression emotion chart.
These charts consist of rows of expressive cartoon faces, each conveying a particular emotion — ones that are often too complicated for your basic "sad" and "mad." If you find your child unable to effectively process how they feel, try presenting them with one of these charts and ask them to point to the face that best expresses how they feel. Facial expressions are a sort of universal language that transcends age, meaning both you and your child instinctively know which face is expressing which emotion. While your child may not be able to read the caption beneath each face, they may well be able to pick the most appropriate face regardless! Once they do, tell them what emotion that face is — this will help further their emotional vocabulary even more.
Show Empathy & Actively Listen
Like we said before, that feeling of not being emotionally understood is frustrating for many children, and not feeling listened to can be a major contributing factor in that frustration. When you find your kid is struggling with a difficult emotion, it's important that you level with them and let them know that what they're feeling is normal, okay, and valid. Listen to what it is your child may be upset about, and make it very clear that you're listening to them and that you're here for them. Emphasize that everyone feels like that sometimes — even you, the parent! — and, if it makes sense for the situation, start working toward a solution. For instance, if a certain step in your kid's bedtime routine routinely causes tantrums, start implementing a change or workaround in that routine that you feel works for both your kid, and you as the parent.
The bottom line is, when your kid feels validated and listen to, they may find their emotions are easier to keep in check!
Show Your Kid How to Recognize Emotions in Others
Recognizing their own emotions and practicing self-regulation is just one part of your kid's emotional intelligence. As a current and future friend to other kids their age, they would do well to spot the signs of emotions, both good and bad, in their peers!
You may start by showing them how other kids feel the same, often strong emotions they do. Emphasize that a kid who's laughing and running around is likely happy, and may be open to play or interaction if it's the appropriate time for such things. Likewise, if a child is sitting apart from the others, perhaps with a sad or tired expression, that child may be a little upset in that moment. While these observations are obvious to us adults, children may have very little or no frame of reference for this sort of thing — helping them build that frame of reference can help them make big strides toward a more robust emotional intelligence.
Give Your Kid Plenty of Socialization
Children learn by doing — that's one of our core principles here at The Big Red Barn! And this principle is no different when it comes to emotional intelligence: your kid will likely do a good chunk of their emotional learning by doing, if not observing. One of the best ways to do this is through healthy amounts of kid-to-kid socialization. While interacting with their peers, kids will absorb a good deal of knowledge about how the best ways to handle emotions and how to practice good socializing.
During socialization, your kid is bound to see a lot of kids feeling a lot of different feelings, and behaving a lot of different ways. These feelings of the other kids will be both good and bad, and so will the behaviors, but regardless, children are hard-wired to pick up new knowledge from situations just like these. They'll see how other children express their emotions, and may intuitively pick up strategies that they see others demonstrate. They may also learn to read the emotions of others in the room, so they can better spot kids make for a good playmate and kids rather be left alone for a little bit. Or, if your kid accidentally hurts another kid on accident, it'll provide a great opportunity to teach your kid compassion and empathy, and how good it feels to be good to others.