As your child grows, it is your job to help them identify, process and understand the different emotions that they will begin to feel. As a parent, you will play a big role in the development of your child’s emotional intelligence (EQ). Therefore, you will need to identify what they can understand at this stage and what you can do to help your child process emotions in a healthy way and make them more adjusted.
What can your child understand at this stage?
Kids aged 3 and up are already able to identify and communicate basic feelings. This includes joy, sadness, anger, and excitement. It’s at this age that they will begin to understand the repercussions of their actions, and realise that they have done something wrong. They will even feel guilty and sorry for their actions. At this stage as well, they will learn about the concept of sharing—but don’t expect them to be generous right off the bat1.
Here are some things you can do to help boost your child's emotional intelligence:
Encourage verbal expression of feelings
It’s important at this stage in their emotional development that you encourage them to communicate their feelings verbally. This is because the first step to processing feelings is being able to identify what these feelings are. Ask them to name the emotion specifically, and remind your child to always express their emotions verbally1. This is also a good opportunity to expand your child’s vocabulary2.
Be open and accepting of your child’s feelings
As a parent, you will have to accept and respect your child’s emotions—even the negative ones. Be sensitive to your child’s verbal and non-verbal cues. Don’t call them out right away on negative emotions. Help them understand why they are having these emotions. You can do so by teaching them to process their feelings by associating expressions of feelings with the daily events in their lives2. Be patient—if they are expressing negative emotions, you may want to wait until the feeling has passed before you discuss it with them. This is done to ensure that they can be more receptive to a conversation1. This will also foster trust between you and your child without fear of being immediately reprimanded for expressing themselves.
Talk about your own feelings and emotions
At this stage in their lives, children learn emotional intelligence by mimicking what they see from the adults who surround them. This is why it’s important for you to set an example on how to use words to express emotions. You can choose to model positive behaviours. When you show a child patience, gentleness and care for others, and you display that in the way you talk about feelings, you are teaching your child to treat others the same way3.
Teach your child empathy
At this stage of emotional intelligence, children already understand the concept of guilt. They already know how to feel bad when they know they have done something wrong. This signifies that they are now capable of learning to think about how their actions affect others. Use this moment to teach your child how to think about others’ feelings. A good way to do this is through reading. Share stories with them and discuss how each character is feeling at the moment3.
Help your child learn self-regulation
An important step in your child’s emotional intelligence is learning how to manage and control their reactions to feelings and things happening around them. These are the different ways to do so:
- Talking about emotions helps your child process them more effectively.
- Set rules about what you expect from your child’s behaviour. Make these rules clear. Be firm with these rules, but remain calm1.
- Positive and negative reinforcement will come into play as well. Give your child positive affirmations in the form of praises, hugs and kisses, when they do something you like. And a negative reaction such as correcting and scolding, when you want them to learn that what they have done is not good. Remember to limit your negative reaction. This is because children will respond to (and reinforce) any kind of behaviour that receives any kind of attention. So, if you want to limit misbehaviour, the best approach is to not give it any attention at all4.
As your child’s emotional intelligence is developing fast at this stage, it’s important for you to be as hands-on as possible. If you can support your child through this period of growth and provide him/her with a good home environment, your child may just grow up to be a well-adjusted person.
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1 ”Social and emotional development for preschoolers.” Victoria State Government | Education and Training. Accessed 30 August 2020. https://www.education.vic.gov.au/parents/child-development/Pages/prescho...
2 ”How to Develop the Emotional Quotient of Your Child?” Student Health Service—Department of Health. Accessed 31 August 2020. https://www.studenthealth.gov.hk/english/resources/resources_bl/files/lf...
3 “Fostering Healthy Social & Emotional Development in Young Children: Tips for Early Childhood Teachers and Providers.” United States Department of Education. Accessed 30 August 2020. https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/talk-read-sing/feelings...
4 “Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers: Responding to Behavior.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 31 August 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/communication/goodbehavior.html