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The Importance of Developing Emotional Intelligence

Darcy Koehn, ARNP, Mercy Family Counseling

May 9, 2012

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Our ability to handle social situations, and control our impulses and emotions are critical to our success as adults. What are the tools that we can give our children to help them on this path? Learning emotional intelligence is an important factor.

Emotional intelligence is the:

  • ability to persist and be resilient in the face of difficulty
  • monitor one's feelings
  • get along with others
  • resist immediate temptation to pursue a higher goal
  • take action that considers the needs of self and others

Some tips for teaching emotional intelligence include helping your child to identify how he or she feels. If your child can't identify his/her feelings, how can he monitor them or read the feelings of others?

"I can see that you are frustrated with the difficulty of tying your shoes. I remember how that feels; it can be a tricky thing to learn, but if you keep practicing it, you will get it. Let me show you a trick to help."

Utilizing a "Feeling Vocabulary" in your home is important step. A "Feeling Vocabulary" includes modeling to your child and sharing when you feel happy, sad, scared and angry, for example. Helping your child to identify those feelings in themselves, with "Feelings Vocabulary" is essential to building emotional intelligence.

Telling a child to "suck it up" when something bad happens negatively affects emotional development and emotional intelligence. When we do this, we reinforce our children to hide their real feelings (scared, angry, hurt, etc.). Those strong feelings that stay inside are like a balloon that eventually pops. A child may act out their feelings through behaviors like yelling, hitting, swearing and crying without understanding what is going on inside.

When you teach a child emotional intelligence skills, you teach him or her how to identify and acknowledge his or her feelings. When a child is able to do this, those around him are better able to understand, respond and help. Teaching and supporting the child to label and express his or her own feelings makes parenting easier! For children and parents, the ability to identify and share emotions is extremely powerful.

Here are some ideas for your family:

Try setting a goal for you and your family. Practice sharing feelings.  Children look to their parents and you are a powerful role model. Demonstrate for your children your ability to identify feelings.

  • "I played a great game today, I am really proud."
  • "The car has to go back to garage for repairs. I am frustrated."
  • "I have a big test/evaluation/project due in 2 days. I am worried about how it will go."
  • "I had to tell you 6 times to pick up your toys. I am feeling angry."

Help your children talk about their day, events and how they feel. Give lots of praise when they are able to start taking steps to share their feelings. Some children will do better with the use of a journal or drawings. If every parent accepted the responsibility of this important lesson, the world would be a better place.

Source: Ramirez, Laura (2007). Emotional Intelligence - Tips for Facilitating Emotional Intelligence in Kids.
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