In the past hour, Jacob must’ve texted his mom, Andrea, fifty times and called her three. All she wanted was to have dinner with her friends without the constant interruptions.
Besides, he was supposed to be in bed asleep. She knows he has trouble falling asleep without her laying down with him first, but she hoped this time would be different.
Andrea can’t figure out when to push Jacob to deal with his anxiety and when she should just let it go. She feels helpless and at the mercy of his emotions. She is out of ideas and nothing she does works long-term.
Does this sound like your client, child, or student?
What does Jacob need?
Jacob needs someone to guide him through his experience of big emotions and to help him practice tolerating them so he can grow his emotional regulation skills and his emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of, regulate, and express your emotions, in addition to having this same level of insight into the emotions of others.
We know that teaching children the skills that grow their emotional intelligence is essential.
Dr. Daniel Goleman’s research indicates that emotional intelligence appears to be twice as strong of a predictor of future success as someone’s IQ.
We also know that when adults can effectively tend to children’s emotions the benefits are numerous.
Dr. John Gottman’s research indicates children are physically healthier, do better in school and get along better with friends when adults respond to a child’s emotional experience by:
- Valuing and being patient with their expression of big emotions
- Approaching emotions as an opportunity for connection
- Offering guidance through labeling emotions and problem-solving
How can you grow your abilities for emotionally guiding children?
Below are a few tips I have that will help.
If you haven’t already requested your invitation to be part of the Emotion Guide Collective, you can do that here. That’s where we gather as a community to discuss your unique situations and grow kids’ social and emotional well-being.
Tip 1: Focus On Building Self-Awareness.
Through gentle inquiry, help your growing person begin to identify their emotions and thoughts and how they can influence one’s actions. Teach them the basics about how their brain responds to emotional experiences so they can better understand their physical response.
Tip 2: Teach Them Coping Skills.
Having a full toolbox of strategies helps children learn emotional regulation skills.
Explore which area the child is struggling with most: Are they having uncomfortable body sensations? Is their mind a whirlwind of unhelpful thoughts? Are they thinking negative things about themselves? Co-create a personalized toolbox to match their needs.
Tip 3: Guide Them To Befriend their Emotions.
The hidden danger of solely focusing on coping skills is that children learn they need to cope their feelings away. Befriending our emotions-no matter how uncomfortable-is the seed we want to plant so they grow up confidently moving towards their emotions instead of avoiding them.
One exception to the above tips is when you’re dealing with a full-on meltdown. Your calm presence is what’s needed while your growing person is riding the emotional tsunami. Tending to your emotions while staying attuned to the child is what matters most.
For years, I’ve wished I could provide more resources to parents, educators and other helpers with customized solutions, not just information that anyone can Google. This is exactly what we’re creating inside the Emotion Guide Collective. I can’t wait to see you in there!