As your children grow and mature, you will notice they develop a certain emotional understanding about themselves and those around them. Commonly, this understanding is referred to as emotional intelligence (EI).
Unlike typical standards of intelligence—knowledge of math, reading, writing, or science—EI is not so easily measured. There aren’t definitive tests that can quantify your child’s emotional intelligence. Instead, you will have to pay close attention to understand your child’s development.
If you fear that your child is facing challenges in this development, here are some ways to address them.
Looking Out for Signs
The easiest way to gauge your child’s EI is to look out for certain behavioral signs. Psychologist Daniel Goleman popularized the term back in 1995, and he described five behavioral criteria to look for in your child:
- Social Skills
Self-awareness refers to your understanding of your own emotions and feelings. Through self-awareness, your child not only understands their own emotions, but they understand the impact of their behavior on other people’s emotions as well.
Self-regulation is your capacity to control your emotions and consider different modes of acting upon these feelings. Motivation is the ability to accomplish goals despite negative feelings. Empathy refers to an understanding of how others feel. And social skills demonstrate how we form relationships with others and how we manage them.
Paying Attention to Your Child’s Behavior
With behavioral signs in mind, you’ll want to pay close attention to your child’s behavior. Notice how they react when frustrated or angry. Does anger get the best of them every time? Or, are they able to express how they’re feeling through a calm conversation?
You will also want to note your child’s relationship with others. Friendships can be very telling of EI and is an easy way to see your child’s capacity for empathy and understanding.
Of course, nobody develops perfect EI overnight. In fact, many of us are still growing in our EI well into adulthood. However, some children may demonstrate more issues than others in their emotional development. For some, empathy and understanding come quite naturally. Others may struggle with being able to relate to other’s emotions. And some of us are simply less fond of talking about emotions in general.
Moreover, if your child has a learning disability, such as ADHD, they may miss social cues and struggle with developing EI. Yet, while your child may demonstrate slower emotional development, this does not mean that they would never develop these skills.
Managing Challenges with Emotional Development
Once you recognize that your child may be struggling with EI, you can intervene and help them. Start by engaging them in talking about their emotions directly but tactfully.
You can ask them how they’re feeling; but if they’re feeling angry, do not get angry in return. Instead, ask them to explain why they are upset, and see if the two of you can come up with a better response to the situation. Be patient with your child and use your own EI to empathize with them.
Children are constantly learning, and emotional intelligence is just one of many things that a child has to understand. It will take time. But you can greatly support your child in their EI journey.
Children’s Counseling and Emotional Intelligence
If you are worried about the development of your child’s emotional intelligence, you may want to consider children’s counseling. It will provide your child with a safe, non-judgmental place to express their feelings. A counselor can help them make sense of these feelings and help them understand why they react the way they do. Plus, a counselor can also teach your child strategies to respond to their negative feelings without anger.
In time, your child can and will develop EI, even if it may take them longer than it did others. Remember to be patient, set a good example, and have faith in your child’s abilities. And don’t forget that you can have an ally on your side—a skilled professional counselor to give your child clarity and understanding of their emotions.
If you would like to know more about my approach to child counseling, please feel free to contact me.