I’m lucky enough to have two totally awesome daughters. One is blessed with more emotional intelligence than most adults I know while the other struggles.
My oldest daughter has always struggled with emotions. She is very black and white in her thinking and this leads to her feeling anxious and angry a lot of the time. Last night she went to a party where she just didn’t fit in and so we left (something she has worked hard to be able to ask to do). Later she had what we call a meltdown. She internalises the behaviour of others and this leaves her vulnerable to low self esteem, feeling she is ‘rubbish’ and all that other nasty stuff that really hurts both emotionally and physically.
Today I called in sick to work and school to stay with my daughter. At first she was worried that she would get in trouble for ‘bunking off’. We talked and I asked her how she felt – “I’m exhausted mummy”. I explained that if she had been physically sick then she wouldn’t be worried about getting into trouble for missing school. She agreed with me and we went for breakfast after which she had a long bath and put her pj’s on. I then found her texting her friend who is off school after being actually physically sick. Her friend asked her what was wrong with her, and she replied matter of factly that “ it’s my mind”. The conversation between the two girls was amazing. Her friend just got it and they had a quick chat about each other’s ailments, wished each other well and left it at that.
This is what I campaign for; such a simple exchange between two 10 years olds on the surface, but total acceptance of each other’s sickness. There was no concern from my daughter about sharing the fact she has anxiety and no judgement from her friend. Most adults I know would never have said that to even a closest friend.
So when I think about my children’s level of emotional intelligence, I realise that it’s perhaps not so much down to intelligence and more down to acceptance by their generation of both mental and physical illness. My daughter also told me that she has spoken with other members of her class about her anxiety and anger issues (her words) and that they have just said ‘well if you need help just let me know’. This blew me away. I feel incredibly proud of my daughter and her classmates. Positive emotional intelligence can help us to identify mental and emotional health issues: it can also protect against breakdowns as it allows us to normalise our emotions and ask for help.
Tips on Fostering Positive Emotional Intelligence
Some tips from me as a parent to you as a parent on fostering positive emotional intelligence:
- Be honest with your children about mental illness – 1 in 4 people will suffer from poor mental health at some point in their lives
- Talk with your children honestly about how you feel – I feel frustrated, sad, happy etc. Naming your emotions helps them to name and talk about their own emotions.
- Don’t dismiss their tummy ache even if they have no signs of a bug – worry tummies are just as real as sick tummies and can be dealt with easily and without drama if you talk with them about what’s worrying them
- Teach them to notice how they feel in situations and to name that feeling.
- Let them know it’s ok to feel however they feel, it doesn’t have to stop them from doing the things that they want to do