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Allison LaTona, M.F.T.
Psychotherapist | Parenting Coach + Educator

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Emotional Intelligence: What we do as parents counts!

Photo by shironosov/iStock / Getty Images

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), in essence, is bringing intelligence to your emotional life by knowing who you are, what you’re feeling, and how to identify and manage your emotions in relation to others.  It is widely held that emotional intelligence is the key to success and happiness.

Because we now know about how much experience shapes the brain, parenting significantly impacts a child’s EQ. The first two decades of life is a critical window of opportunity to help children feel right, which will assist them to think clearly and act right. 

The cornerstone of EQ is the ability to self-soothe and self-regulate. Parents can help first by noticing and accepting your children’s emotional experience and helping them label their feeling. You may first need to de-escalate intense emotions, for instance, by encouraging calming breaths. Then it’s important to narrate what happened from the child’s point of view and express empathy with their situation. Your child learns from you that the full landscape of human emotions is acceptable, legitimate and tolerable: you understand their feelings rather than seeking to “fix” them. This gives children the respect they deserve and the time they need to make sense of their emotions and integrate them into a healthy sense of identity. Your child feels safe, supported, and okay just as they are.

Mirroring children’s experience and feelings without distortion builds self-esteem and helps them deal with life’s inevitable conflicts and disappointments. They learn, self-acceptance, appropriate emotional expression, and feel competent to solve personal problems or to repair or enhance interpersonal relationships.

The good news is that your kids aren’t the only ones who benefit. You learn EQ from teaching it. And, as you navigate life’s hurts and disappointments together, your bond will become more loving and profound.