How do we / should we manage or handle our child’s emotions?
With the levels of childhood anxiety on the rise I think that this topic is especially relevant for parenting today. Also, for those of us who live in BC, Canada, having some tools to help us deal with the potential anxiety and mixed emotions that may face parents and children alike right now with regards to the BC Teachers Strike may be helpful.
There are many studies now that suggest high EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE (EQ) is a greater predictability of success over high IQ and that developing and fostering this skill in our children is particularly important. It is how children start to discover a sense of who they are and self-confidence.
What can we do?
One of the most important things a parent can do with their child is to acknowledge and validate their feelings and accept that their child might be feeling a particular way, even when they don’t agree, or should I say, especially when they don’t agree! How often do we hear things like this:
“You can’t possibly be hungry, you just ate your lunch 20 minutes ago”
“How can you be tired, you just woke up”
“You can’t be scared of this, you have done it 100 times”
“You do not HATE doing Math, you are great at Math”
Acknowledge, accept and validate
It is fundamentally important that we acknowledge, accept and validate our child’s feelings and not dismiss them, fob them off or play them down. If we listen carefully to women chatting with each other they often validate each other by saying things like this: “That must have been terrible for you, I don’t know how you managed to keep going”; it comes naturally to them. But, for some reason, we are not as good at doing it with our children and they need it just as much as we do, in fact it could be argued that they need it more.
Children need to learn to recognize how they feel and be comfortable and able to express themselves accordingly and in order for them to do this we need to guide, support, encourage and role model this process for them. Using statements like this is helpful for them:
“I can see that you are really sad and frustrated right now. When I lost my bracelet on the beach last week I was sad and frustrated too. It’s okay that you are feeling this way.”
They may need a hug, more conversation, some quietness or solitude, to listen to some music or a comfort toy to help them settle. Their needs will all be different but they need to know that you support them and their emotions and that you are there for them. We must remember that all feelings are okay. When children feel that they have been heard and they realize that you are with them, on their page, whatever the challenge they may be facing will be made easier and their behavior can often respond favorably as well.
Encourage children to express themselves
We need to encourage our children to express themselves. If they are regularly put down and their feelings are ignored or dismissed when they do express themselves, they will simply learn that it is better to just shut down, cover them up or lie.
We can role model this to our children by using statements like this to express ourselves and our emotions:
“When you………………… I feel………………..”
“When you fell and scraped your knee I felt your pain.”
and encourage your children to use it in their vocabulary:
“I feel………………………. when you…………………”
“I feel mad when my big brother steals the toy I am playing with”
If we hope to raise emotionally intelligent children we need to allow them to express themselves and accept, acknowledge and validate their feelings. They need to acquire the skills to be able to manage their emotions and acceptance and validation is the key.
For those of you in BC, you may be noticing unusual or different behaviors in your child right now? It may be that they are anxious about not being back at school or perhaps not having enough structure and routine in their lives. Hopefully the information here will help equip you and your child to deal with emotions in a healthy way.
I encourage you to try this with your child, I think you will be amazed at the positive effect that it can have on them, how much faster your child will be able to calm down and cope with the emotion and situation and above all not let reactivity jeopardize your relationship and connection with them.
Teaching your child some simple Mindfulness exercises can also help them recognize and manage their emotions and is another excellent thing that you can do to help build emotional intelligence. Next week, I will explore this further and bring you some tips as you how you can incorporate this valuable life skill into your lives.
If you have any questions regarding this, I’d love to hear from you.
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PPS. My co-faciliator for some of the parenting classes I run is running Anxiety workshops for kids. For more information, please click HERE.