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  • Writer's pictureDr. Samantha Brustad

Fostering Skills Kids Need Most: Emotional Intelligence

It goes without saying, our kids have had to manage an exceedingly large amount of toxic stress this year. Aside from the health threats of COVID-19, they have been separated from their school, friends and their routines. As parents it can be difficult to know how to best support them when we do not have the answers ourselves! My name is Dr. Samantha Brustad and I am one of the many licensed psychologists working to help parents manage during this difficult time. I believe now, more than ever, is when we need to be fostering skills to build emotional intelligence in our children.

Of course, we want our children to succeed in life, however parents also want to raise kids who are caring. We want children who are emotionally stable and equipped to deal with a stressful and ever-changing world. This is where emotional intelligence comes in…

· Emotional intelligence is measured by a person’s self-awareness, their ability to self-manage, their social awareness, and their ability to manage relationships effectively.

· As a child’s awareness of their emotions increase, their ability to manage these emotions more effectively increases as well.

Read on as I describe 3 daily activities you can do with your child to help them develop strong emotional intelligence

Practice Identifying Emotions…Even the Difficult Emotions

It’s simple, the more kids practice identifying and discussing their emotions, the more comfortable they will be managing them. All emotions are normal, no emotions are bad.

I suggest asking your child daily, “what emotion are you feeling today?” Many families utilize an age appropriate feelings wheel to help. I also encourage parents to participate or to make a family activity of of sharing about emotions each day and as they occur throughout the day.

Teach Your Children Appropriate Ways to Manage Strong Emotions and Model, Model, Model

After your child shares an emotion, it is important to teach them appropriate ways to manage their feelings. Check out this article by the Gottman Institute which provides an age-by-age guide to helping kids manage emotions.

If your child expresses a negative emotion, parents should first normalize their experience and then guide them to ways they may self-regulate. While it can be difficult to watch your child suffer & tempting to rescue them by “solving the problem,” it is important that you do not try to change your child’s feeling, but rather join them by expressing that you can understand why they would feel that way and help them discover ways they can manage this normal, yet difficult emotion.

Most importantly, parents should constantly model the practices we teach our children about emotional regulation and expression. If you cannot manage your emotions in a healthy manner, you cannot expect your child to do so, simple as that. If you are someone who struggles in this area, know you are NOT alone. I recommend you seek individual therapy so that you can begin to model self-care, self-love and healthy emotional regulation for your child.

Read / Journal / Draw Emotions

Set aside time to journal about emotions, dance out your emotions, draw your emotions and read books about emotions! Further, incorporate emotions into everyday activates. For example, while reading stories together, talking about the emotions the characters are experiencing not only normalizes emotion by acknowledging others have the same kinds of feelings, but also helps children better understand cause and effect, and ultimately helps build empathy.

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