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Help your Child Understand Feelings

There are many kinds of knowing. Research over the past 20 years tells us that knowing and understanding our emotions, emotional intelligence, is just as important as our intellectual intelligence. It involves understanding and being able to name our emotions as well as being able to use them productively in problem solving. Want to encourage this in your child? Here’s how:

  • Acknowledge your child’s perspective and understand their feelings. This doesn’t mean you have to agree – it just means you understand your child’s take on a situation.
  • Listen for the feelings underneath when your child is telling you about an experience. Often children tell us the “stuff” of the story without the emotions. Try saying, “Wow, you sound really excited about the field trip,” or “You are disappointed that it’s raining out and we can’t go outside.” This helps children become aware of and understand their own feelings.
  • Allow expression of feelings positive or negative. Denying, disapproving or minimizing your children’s feelings communicates shame.
  • Connect before you correct. You can say, “You are really mad at your brother for taking your toy, and its not ok to hit. How else can you let him know how you feel?”
  • Teach problem solving. Allow children to experience strong emotions and move through them by sharing, talking, drawing a picture of them. Then, when they are ready, help them to come up with some solutions.
  • Use your reading time. When you and your child are reading pause and wonder about what a character might be feeling. Did your child ever have similar feelings? How might the character solve his or her problem?
  • Bedtime rituals. Invite your child to share something that made him feel frustrated or disappointed in the day and then something that he enjoyed or invited him to feel proud. Share your own set of stories.