The Key to Raising Healthy Adults
Teaching emotional intelligence to our kids is one of the best things we can do for them. Emotional intelligence is one of the keys to raising a successful and emotionally and mentally healthy adult. It is also a huge preventative parenting step. The better we teach our kids what emotions are and how to deal with them, the better choices they can make and the less behavior problems we often have.
Research has shown that kids who have parents who emotionally support them and who become able to manage their emotions do better in school, relationships, can bounce back faster when distress hits, have resilience, and have fewer behavior problems. Having a parent who is an emotional support has also shown to act as a buffer to some the negative consequences of parental separation.
But in order to help them create a life that is full of better experiences, we need to help our kids learn the valuable lessons of emotional health.
We need to show them how to handle the many feelings and emotions that go into life.
We need to coach and support them.
We need them to know there are numerous emotions they will feel, and that they are usually only temporary. It is OK to feel a mix of emotions (as we often feel a mix of sadness and excitement as our kids grow up).
The emotions we feel tell us something about what’s going on inside ourselves and we can learn how to more effectively handle the uncomfortable emotions like anger and sadness.
Furthermore, modeling healthy emotions is important for our kids. If they see us blow our tops each time we get angry, what do you think their reaction will be when they get angry? They learn to live what they see. It is incredibly difficult to manage our own emotions as adults, especially when our kids do the many things that can lead us to frustration. (Believe me I get it.) And we can’t be perfect all the time. So, when we do get angry and yell, we need to show our kids how to apologize. When we get so angry, we don’t know what to do, we need to model how to take a break to calm down before we let a reaction become a regret.
Emotion Dismissing Parents
We will start this discussion with what an emotion dismissing parent looks like.
- Often emotion dismissing parents are impatient with negative emotions. We either don’t want to deal with the negative emotions, get overwhelmed with them, or just want our kids to move on and be happy again. We don’t need to tell our kids “to get over it” or “you shouldn’t feel that way.” Or anything similar. Their emotions are valid.
- We also don’t need to rush in a rescue from sad emotions.
- Parents who have a focus on emotions are also careful not to dismiss emotions simply because they came from a child. It is easy to tell our kids not to be scared of the dark, but that fear is very real to the kids. It is important for us to show kids that their feelings have value and are real for them.
- Allowing kids to feel their uncomfortable or inconvenient emotions helps them see that they are their own person with feelings. Instead of seeing their emotion as an inconvenience, we see it as a means to build our relationship and connect, or as a way to solve a problem.
- Sometimes we simply want our kid to feel better quickly or we are too busy to deal with the problem at hand. We all do it from time to time.
- We may also punish a child for their feelings. And important point to make here is that we don’t want to punish a child because of their feelings. All feelings are valid. But, kids need to learn that their behavior when they are angry or sad is what matters. So, while we don’t want to punish for anger, we should have logical consequences for calling Mom or Dad a name while they are angry, or hitting little brother.
- Sometimes this type of parent thinks that an uncomfortable emotion being expressed from a child is a bad reflection on them as a parent. If my kid is angry, I must be doing something wrong. Or I am a bad parent because I can’t keep my kid happy. Life is full of complex emotions and these are often strong for kids.
Emotional Support Parent
So, what does it look like to emotionally support our kids and help them grow into adults who can self-regulation and handle life when it gets hard?
Here is what an Emotional Support Parent often looks like — Think of this as a “How-To” of teaching emotional intelligence:
- Validate their experience and respect their feelings, however silly they may seem.
- Teach them to label emotions.
- Teach them to have healthy coping mechanisms or tools to work through emotion. Maybe that means taking a break, or hitting a pillow, or taking deep breaths, or special recognition (count 5 blue things in the room).
- We can open the lines of emotional communication with our empathy and understanding. Always, always, always lead with empathy before lectures, advice, or help. This opens their minds to thinking and shows them we are there in support.
- Asking questions is usually better than making statements. It’s gets them thinking. “How are you feeling?” “What made you feel this way.” What questions are typically best, because they can describe what happened.
- They also set important boundaries with love. Sure, it’s OK to get mad at your sibling. But it is never OK to hit them out of anger, and there will be appropriate consequences for hitting (not the anger).
- Emotional support parents also know it’s OK to show emotion while parenting. We can show our kids that we get angry and frustrated too. We label our emotions and find healthy ways to express and cope. We apologize when we get overwhelmed and yell.
- One key trait of an emotionally healthy and emotion supporting parent, is that they notice small emotions before they become big and overwhelming. You may notice your child feeling frustrated and intervene before it becomes full blown anger.
- Take these opportunities to connect. Give your child a safe place to get their feelings out. Some of the stronger emotions can be scary for kids. They can feel out of control of their bodies, and having us as a safe place to express that is important.
- Use preventative parenting. When things are calm, talk about what your child can do when they feel overwhelmed or angry. “Let’s figure out a plan for when you’re feeling angry, so we don’t hurt anyone.” “Let’s make a list of 5 things to do when you feel sad.” “Next time you feel angry, count 5 blue things, or list 5 things you are thankful for.
- Separate the emotion or behavior from the child. Your child is not the problem. But maybe, they don’t make great choices when they are overwhelmed. Those choices are the issue you want to help fix, not the child.
And remember, we can’t do this 100% of the time. But, we can take as many opportunities as we can do coach our kids. They deserve our time and attention when we can give it.
Impact of Emotional Intelligence at a Glance
- Kids who have had consistent emotional support as their brain developed, usually have a better response to stressful situations. Small stressors don’t usually bother these kids as much as other kids, who can easily become off balanced or distressed by small, uncomfortable moments. This ability to bounce back from hard moments is key in building resilience and building strong relationships.
- Kids with emotion support parents have also been shown to relate better with their peers, help themselves handle stress, have fewer behavior problems, and do well in school.
- They have a better handle on delayed gratification, impulse control, reading other’s social cues, and motivated themselves to feel better when times get hard.
- They have learned how to go from uncomfortable feelings or more comfortable feelings, giving them the ability to self-soothe.
- These kids see their parents as a source of support when they need it. They feel a strong connection to their parents and their family unit.
- These kids have seen how they can overcome uncomfortable feelings and problem solved. This is how we build resilience.
No matter your child’s age, you can support their emotional intelligence. And be sure to support your own as well! Our empathy, understanding, and support are absolutely crucial in helping them become successful adults.
(If you feel your child is dealing with severe anger or depression, or anything else that is causing problems or hurting someone, please reach out to a therapist or their pediatrician. We can help them handle the daily emotions of life, but sometimes things are too big for us to handle alone. Be their advocate and support, and get everyone the help they need.)
By: Emily Scott, PhD
Follow Renewed Hope Parenting on Facebook
Follow Renewed Hope Parenting on Pinterest
Follow Renewed Hope Parenting on Twitter
You may also like:
This blog is written as an educational and general resource only. It should not be a substitute for parenting or relational therapy, advice, or counseling with a professional therapist or medical doctor. Renewed Hope Parenting is not responsible for results or use of the information provided in these pages if you choose to use them. Everything included in this blog and website is copyrighted to Renewed Hope Parenting and may not be used without permission.