My son is an amazing human being. He's smart and logical, and the things he says and knows blow my mind.
But, he is not the most emotionally sensitive child of his peer group. As a mother who has a bleeding heart, it's been hard for me to watch his very blunt, very analytical responses to things that have brought me to tears. He does well in school, and for that, I am glad, but as a mother, I want him to do well as a human.
I've set out to purposely work on developing his emotional IQ.
Related: How to Build Resilience in your Sensitive, Emotional Child
Emotional intelligence/emotional quotient is the ability of one to identify, evaluate, control and express emotions. While we may be thankful that our children may have high intelligence levels, that does not always mean they have high levels of social intelligence, and that's just as important to function in groups, and in life.
One of the best books I've ever read is The Whole Brained Child, written by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Bryson. The book shows parents how a child's brain works with different parts to make emotional and logical choices and discoveries and teaches in really applicable ways how to help nurture your child's entire brain. It helps parents develop a child's intellectual and emotional intelligence together, so they see and live life in a more balanced way. It also helps parents like me understand their children.
Research says strong emotional intelligence is important for children to be happier in their lives and successes. Not only does a higher emotional IQ help children function in their lives better, but it also helps them function with others better too.
Related: 10 Peaceful Parenting Techniques Every Parent Should Know
Experts suggest the first and most important thing a parent can do is to model empathetic/sympathetic behaviors themselves, while also acknowledging their children may have very different perspectives on a situation.
For me, I often have to tell my son that while he may not find something sad/hurtful/uncomfortable, etc., others may and we want to be able to understand and comfort them too. Helping our children develop strong emotional IQs comes best when we work not to tell them their feelings are wrong, but to continue to model different, more emotionally sensitive and aware emotions on a regular basis.
We can do this by helping them recognize their various feelings and talking about them - how they may be similar or different to ours and how others might feel as well. The more opportunity we give our children to work through their emotions, whatever they are, with us as safe places to turn, the easier they'll feel expressing honest emotions and regulating them for the situation they are in.
And if you're like me, and wonder sometimes if you're raising a little robot, experts recommend role playing various situations where empathy/sympathy/understanding would be warranted.
When you see the homeless man on the street, talk about what feelings the man may be having and how we may be able to do something to help. Vary situations where you may be able to make a difference (for example, we can offer the homeless man one of our blessing bags) with ones in which you can't, but you can talk through emotions with them (for instance, an animal that has been hit on the side of the road will not survive) so that they have experience with problem-solving in a sensitive way.
Often, we shy away from our children's emotions because as they are immature, they're often wildly ranging and sometimes more than we fear we can handle. But taking a few deep breaths and working through emotional situations with our children can teach them how to do the same things in situations where we aren't around to help.
Dr. Bryson has some really great videos that you can check out if you are looking for more ways to help your child develop these very important skills!
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