One thing that many parents find challenging, as did I when my kids were young, is the emotions and attitudes that come through our children in a regular or irregular basis. Our kids are affected by so many things in their lives, each one in a different and unique way. As they move through their day, various things can set them off and frustrate, anger, excite, surprise, or sadden them. So, how do you raise an emotionally intelligent child?
Start By Being There
There is such a wide range of emotions that all humans experience. One of the important processes that we can offer our children is an outlet for such feelings. We need to help them by modeling ways to express ourselves as well as help them when they need it most. Being with our children during these times and offering compassion can be extremely difficult for us as adults.
When my kids were young, their outbursts and emotions set me off. I took it personally and felt triggered by their emotions at the same time. It was uncomfortable and chaotic for me in a very big way.
Conditioning played a big role in this reaction. When I was a child, I can distinctly remember having big emotions, outbursts, and needs. At the same time, I can also clearly remember those outbursts and emotions being shut down as quickly as they came. I was too emotional or too sensitive.
However, when we cannot express these feelings, they become buried to the point that they can become synonymous to a volcanic eruption, ready to explode at any point. Suppressing these emotions does not make them go away. It buries them and they slowly begin to come out in very passive-aggressive ways until the volcano reaches its peak eruption. Luckily, through my own work, I have learned to manage and embrace my own emotions, despite having had a different experience in my childhood.
Be Willing to Grow
For many of us, this is where our growth needs to take place. We need to first connect with our own triggers and unpack what they represent for us and in us. When we understand that, we can deconstruct the pain and discomfort. Looking at our childhood—the patterns, the conditions, and the expectations—can help us understand more about the triggers we have today. Once we become aware of where they came from, we have taken the first step forward.
Awareness is the key to transformational change. Once we bring awareness into the picture, we can bring conscious attention to the behavior, trigger, and need either before, during or after the trigger shows up. This is where a coach can help.
Further, it is important to remember that our children have their own emotions. They are not ours, and as such, we should not take them on. It is not a personal attack on us or our parenting. It is truly a human experience to process and connect with our own emotions.
Allowing our children the space to release these feelings is the gift. We might want to wish the feelings away, but in the end, the best thing we can do for our kids is to honor their emotions even if we don’t resonate or relate to them. We have the distinct opportunity to help our kids learn creative and healthy ways to identify, process, and express their feelings, as they learn what those feelings are.
Steps That May Support Your Child’s Emotional Experience
- Don’t try to fix this.
It’s not our job to fix anything except perhaps a missing button on a shirt or something simple like that.
- Listen to hear, not to respond.
Be attentive. Make eye contact and ask questions to learn more about your child’s experience. Sometimes in the moment, the child cannot share. Let them know that you see that they are having a hard time and you would love to hear how they are feeling when they are ready to share.
- Be curious, but not a “fixer.”
Ask what your child can do to help themself move through their feelings. Our kids are brilliant. We see this brilliance more and more as we step back and ask questions to tap into their needs and wants. We can offer gentle suggestions or stories from our own experiences but in the end, this is about your child and their unique journey.
- Be compassionate & be present.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes by understanding more about what it is like for them. After we do this, we can validate their feelings. Whatever is going on is important to your child. That is why big emotions are showing up. Don’t run from the emotions, just be present with them and with your child.
When we approach our children and their emotions in this way, it minimizes the power struggle and the opportunity to shut down emotions while opening the door to connect with compassion and appreciation for the other in a validating way. Imagine what this feels like for our children. Prior to beginning this process, check in with yourself; leave your emotional baggage on the sidelines.
About the Author
Sue DeCaro is a heart-centered coach, educator, working with individuals & families around the globe to navigate life’s daily challenges. She offers free consultations for her services. Visit www.suedecaro.com or www.decaroparentcoaching.com.