By Dr. Elaine Ducharme

Managing emotions is a very important developmental task. As kids learn to identify and name their feelings they gain increased control over their own behavior and interactions with others. Some children have an easier time of this than others. They seem to be intuitively aware of other people’s emotions as well as their own. They pick up on facial expressions and body language and are comfortable talking about such things. On the other hand, most kids need our help in developing these skills.

There are a number of things that assist kids in developing their emotional IQ. It is helpful when they hear the adults around them discussing their emotions and problem solving how to manage strong feelings. They need to be encouraged to talk about their feelings and have their feelings validated. This is really important. If a child says “I am upset” or “I am worried” and the adult says “no you are not” or “there is no reason to feel that way”, a child begins to get the message that somehow his feelings are wrong. There are no wrong feelings. We feel what we feel. The critical factor is what we do with our feelings. When a child is really mad it is important he can label his feeling but understand the range of acceptable behaviors. As kids mature it is important for them to learn to distinguish anger from frustration, sadness, disappointment and a host of other feelings. Many adults continue to have difficulty with this.

Children learn these things by watching their parents and other important adults around them. If they see people losing their temper and lashing out at others or shutting down their emotions that is what they will learn to do.
Here are few ways you can help your child increase his emotional IQ:

Manage your own emotions in a healthy way. If you find yourself losing control or just shutting down consider talking to a therapist to help you learn this skill.

Identify/name what you are feeling to your child. Let you child know if you are angry, frustrated, sad, happy, ecstatic etc.

Listen to your child and help them identify emotions.There are great charts parents can get that show pictures of faces expressing certain feelings.

Don’t tell your child what they should or should not be feeling. Praise your child for identifying his emotions.

Help your child tolerate negative feelings and disappointment by avoiding giving a quick fix. In today’s world of worrying about self-esteem it seems everyone must always be a winner.Of course self-esteem is important. But learning to handle loss and disappointment helps us survive in the real world.

Find books and magazines that talk about feelings. Discuss movies and tv shows with your children and identify how you each felt about certain situations.

If your child continues to have difficulty managing his/her emotions, please consider talking to a psychologist or other mental health provider trained to help kids improve their emotional IQ.


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