Fostering Emotional Intelligence in the Next Generations
MAY 12, 2021
Mental health is a hot topic these days in America, which is a positive sign of growth as a culture. Instead of being encouraged to stuff our feelings or plainly ignore them, we as a society are becoming more comfortable with talking about our emotions and using tools to navigate through the more uncomfortable ones in healthier ways. As we learn more about how to handle ourselves, we are better able to help our children work through their own difficult feelings in beneficial ways. This bodes for a brighter and healthier future for the youth of today as perhaps they will suffer less from the effects of internalized negative emotions. A flourishing youth gives way to a flourishing future.
This Covid-19 situation has left so many people feeling frustrated and unmotivated, especially kids. More than ever, children and adults suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders. How do we help our kids when we ourselves are having a hard time?
Create a safe space in which everyone can talk about their feelings without fear of negative repercussions. Just last night, my oldest daughter was discussing her feelings towards me when I do certain things or speak in a particular tone. This was not easy for me to hear; especially because it wasn’t exactly flattering information! She went so far as to tell me I could be passive aggressive which really flared my ego, but I kept my mouth shut and listened. And learned. I want her to feel safe to be open and honest with me and shutting her down does not support that goal. She wasn’t being mean, she was being assertive, but so many parents take assertiveness from their children as insulting or impertinent and this is where the change needs to take place; can we as parents hear our children without ego and/or pride getting in the way?
Let them, and yourself, feel. My toddler was crying pretty hard this morning because he wanted to dip his own spoon into the sugar bowl, but his dexterity is not quite at that level yet, so he was getting sugar everywhere. I helped him and he freaked out because he did not want help! Toddlers, am I right? Man, was he ever angry! He wriggled out of my arms to scream on the floor. Stacey and I just sort of watched him for a moment and then I said to him in a kind and loving way, “wow, you are so angry, Ocean! It makes you feel really mad and frustrated when you can’t do something, huh?” And he cried a little more, looked at me, and I picked him up and carried him to the sofa to sit and cuddle for a minute. He calmed down fairly quickly and the whole situation caused me to reflect on how acknowledging our children’s feelings is a gateway to helping them navigate and express their emotions. Instead of saying, “oh, stop crying, you’re fine!,” I recognized where he was at and accepted him exactly as he was in that moment. I didn’t tell him how to feel or not to feel, thereby empowering all of us. It feels good whenever we are acknowledged because we feel seen and humans (even the little ones!) need to feel seen, especially by those closest to us.
Don’t forget to laugh. With so many people pent up into serious states of being, it’s so important to stay lighthearted with ourselves and our kids. Laugh. Joke. Have fun. Watch a funny movie, run around at the beach, get a whoopie cushion and pull some pranks. Humor is incredibly beneficial and we all know that laughter is medicine. In fact, laughter is scientifically proven to release oxygen and endorphins, improve mood, and even provide pain relief. Do things that support your happiness and well-being. Watch/read/listen to less news. Find interesting podcasts or programs that support learning and fun. Exercise. Stretch. Have a bowl of ice cream with the kids and don’t feel guilty about it. While you’re at it, stop feeling guilt in general. The list goes on and on, so find the things that really make you feel goodness and content on a deep level and nourish yourself with them. As you embrace all the positive aspects life has to offer, your happiness will spread to those around you and every area of your life will eventually improve.
I see so many people around the world becoming more emotionally intelligent and this brings me great hope. As we learn more about the unknown realm of feeling deeply--even the yucky stuff--we begin to heal the massive wounds of humanity. Our children have access to more information than ever before and they are so ready to step into their power as the future leaders of this world. Support them on that journey by encouraging and fostering healthy mental and emotional habits. They might even teach you a thing or two!