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How to develop a child’s emotional intelligence

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How to develop a child’s emotional intelligence
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Do you know what is emotional intelligence?  This concept from the nineties is still widely used today, especially in the context of personal development.  It reflects our capacity to perceive emotions and then integrate them into our thought process.  Philippe Grimbert, a psychoanalyst, states that “although everyone feels emotions, not everyone has developed their emotional intelligence.  This is an acquired knowledge that comes primarily from parents.” Emotional moments require attention from others so that a person can develop and feel better.  However there are certain ways that parents can better develop their child’s emotional intelligence.  Here are five techniques.   

1) Let your child manage and understand their emotions 

Our emotions are constantly being displayed by our body.  As adults we manage to channel our emotions or put them into vibrate mode.  Although we are more adapt as keeping our emotions in check this can pose different problems.  That being said children can’t silences their feelings or lie about their emotions, which is just as well.  This is where adults come into play as we can help the child to manage the emotion that is upsetting them.

This is easier said that done as in reality adults tend to teach children control.  However instead of  constructing a wall in their heads, some phrases should be forbidden and replaced such as instead of telling your child….  

  • It’s nothing becomes I understand
  • Don’t be scared becomes What are you scared of?  
  • Why are you crying at your age? becomes It is always good to cry but explain to me why you are feeling this way?

The aim is to make the child understand that what they are feeling isn’t wrong.  We also want our children understand why they feel this way and that they should talk about it.

enfant caprice crise de colère
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Really try to understand the child

It is sometimes difficult to understand young children as we no longer remember what it feels like to be young our self.  However it would be wrong to think that everything is perfect and joyful for children.  Instead we should see a children’s life a battle ground where they are constantly put to the test by varying emotions.

A child’s feelings and emotions are translated often by their body as they feel their emotions physically.  When children are going through grief or are in pain they can often feel like they are dying.  These might be strong words but it is very close to what children feel like in reality. 

Although we know the child has nothing to fear you have to put yourself in the place of the crying child who is feeling lost.  You need to understand why they are upset and then console them.  The child will understand as they get older and consider these as natural emotions. 

There is no point in letting a child grow up too fast.  Be there for your child and try and understand why they are feeling as they do. In order for you to do this you’ll have to try and put yourself into the shoes of your young self! 

Give a name and cause for their emotion 

As Philippe Grimbert explains “a child doesn’t have the words to explain what is happening inside, and can’t explain how they are feeling“.  It is therefore down to the adult to explain their child’s emotions in words.  This way you can explain to the child that what they are feeling is normal and has a name.  “Yes I see that you are angry!”

By naming emotions it makes them feeling real and normal.  They can then name their emotion so that they can use it again.  More importantly, you shouldn’t avoid trying to explain to your child, even if they are very young, that everyone feels emotions and that they are not alone.

By doing this, you will help your child to understand that everyone has to deal with emotions and that these feelings are normal.  You are developing their emotional management as well as their emotional intelligence. 


After you have named it you need to explain it

Naming an emotion gives the emotional experience a meaning.  This also helps to make the situation normal and useful. But you also need to know what the emotion corresponds to.  This is why you should always explain the emotion that you have named to your child. 

  • Anger is a normal emotion which happens when feel things that are happening are right. 
  • Being disappointed is completely natural.This tells us that our desire aren’t conforming to reality.  Disappointment will happen often in life but it isn’t the end of the world.  You can always have new desires and wishes.
  • Boredom is an empty feeling, however it teaches us to occupy ourselves on our own by using our imagination.
  • Shame teaches us the things to do and not to do.
  • Sadness is a normal emotion.  It also show us that we are attached to people or things.  While we are sad you can use this emotion creatively in song, drawings and games. 
  • Restlessness show us that we are happy and want to take advantage of things.  That being said our pleasure also comes from the expectation. 
  • Fear protects us against things that frighten us.  Everyone can get scared.
  • Jealousy is a normal emotion that show that we need attention and love.  It pushes us further so that we can get what we want. 

By naming and then explaining emotions to your child you can help them to construct a sort of mental dictionary or as Philippe Grimbert calls it an “emotional grammar.”

deuxième enfant famille Docteur Tamalou Pixabay
© Sathyatripodi / Pixabay

Give your child the chance to speak

Children can explain themselves so why don’t you let them do it.  After having giving them certain  types of help and encouragement, as stated above, your child can talk to you about their emotions.  Let them speak as they’d like and as it makes sense to them.  Give the child the space to talk whether it is at the kitchen table or after school.  Allow your child talk about what they are feeling at certain moments and tell your child how you felt at the same age.  

If your child can’t explain in words how they are feeling you can perhaps try to explain it yourself to see if that makes sense to them or you can ask for the help of a therapist.

Related articles:

How do your emotions affect your health?

Five types of emotional scars experienced as children which shape our lives

Bottling up your emotions: what are the effects on your health and body?