How much should I ignore my children’s feelings?

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How do you nurture your kids' emotional intelligence? Do you pay attention or just ignore? What will be most helpful?

What makes us humans is our ability to feel and express emotions in different ways. We smile when we are happy. We even cry when we are happy.

It is important that we pay attention to the whole range of feelings expressed by our children. They include envy, jealousy, rage, bitterness, sadness, depression, vengeance, ecstasy, happiness, shyness, pride, fear, sorrow and love. Experiencing each of these different states illustrates how the children are beginning to mature emotionally.

Reading storybooks of different themes provides opportunities to discuss how different feelings are expressed in different contexts. For example, you can talk about jealousy when you read about ‘Cinderella” and her wicked step mother and sisters. You can talk about happiness and relief experienced by Nimo when he was reunited with his father.

Let your children understand that as they mature, they will begin to develop stronger and a wider range of feelings. It is important that they share emotions that bother them instead of bottling it inside. Show them that they will be loved even when they share their envy and jealousy.

It is human to feel envious and jealous. However, explain to them that learning to cope with such feelings is vital for their wellbeing and developing friendship with others. Teach them to celebrate the success of their friends and empathize with their disappointments.

Often, your children just need a chance to express their feelings. Once they have been heard, they might just let go of their troubling feelings. In fact, you’ll be amazed at how affectionate and cooperative children become once they have had the chance to share their feelings with caring adults.

Read this too! Pacifiers linked to stunted emotional growth

Teach your kids to learn more about their feelings

In this day and age of Google search, access authoritative websites with your children. Invite them to suggest the questions and look for the experts’ advice. For example, learn about how to deal with feelings of jealousy by going to psychcentral.com. Dr Christina Hibbert, a clinical psychologist, explains on the site that “jealousy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s human nature. It’s natural to feel jealous from time to time”. She adds that jealousy becomes problematic when “we act out in jealousy or we wallow in it”.

Social networking sites such as Facebook may trigger feelings of jealousy. Life becomes even more complex and confusing when the children’s online and offline worlds overlap. They provide lots more opportunities to compare themselves with others.

How can we counsel our children to deal with feelings of jealousy? Share with them the following tips:

  • Recognize our jealousy so that it loses its power to shame us
  • Learn from our jealousy as inspiration to grow and improve ourselves
  • Let the feeling of jealousy go and feel the freedom of wellness
  • Manage our emotions healthfully by practising mindfulness and trying to detach from the intensity of these emotions
  • Remind the children of all the wonderful traits they possess

Why does recognizing and managing emotions encourage emotional intelligence?

As children mature, they will experience stronger emotions, both positive and negative. It is important to recognize such emotions as they move through the children and then pass away as we help them to manage the emotions. Do not insist that the children fend off or repress the negative feelings. Doing so may cause such feelings to lodge even deeper into the recesses of their soul. Help them find healthy expressions.

Read this too! Should we allow children to throw tantrums and show anger?

 

Tell them not to be terrified of their strong emotions overwhelming them. It may be necessary for children to stay detached and sulk for a bit. Others may even resort to throwing tantrums to let off steam. Do not punish them when they do that. Discourage them by explaining that they lose control and get even more hurt when they throw tantrums. Throwing tantrums can become an unattractive habit and it can repel others. What they need is self-control and restraint and to deal with negative feelings calmly.

Explain that recognizing and managing negative emotions is the first step towards healing their psyches and bodies. The mind and body are interconnected. Chasing away negative feelings and replacing them with positive ones will strengthen them physically and emotionally.

End the discussion with a hug and a cuddle. Or enjoy reading a storybook and watch their favourite movie together to restore the emotional equilibrium and bring the smile back onto their lovely faces.

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