1. Talk about feelings.
Describe how sadness, happiness, anger, and other emotions feel in the body. Teach your child to recognize and name emotions as she feels them. You can do this beginning when she is very young by saying, “You look angry. Your face is red, and your body is tense.” As she grows older, talk to her about how to handle her emotions. Teach her ways to move through sadness, deal with disappointment, calm anger, maintain happiness, and so on. She will benefit from this lifelong.
2. Accept and validate all feelings.
As parents, we often only like to see positive emotions in our children. Anger tends to trigger our own anger. Sadness makes us worry, and so we want to wipe it away quickly. We may dismiss disappointment or anxiety in hopes that these feelings will just go away in our children. We want to see them happy all the time, but human beings aren’t happy all the time, and it’s important for your child to learn that all emotions are normal and okay to feel. He needs to know, of course, that all behavior isn’t acceptable (for example, he can’t throw things because he’s mad), but it’s perfectly okay to feel mad. Don’t dismiss feelings that make you uncomfortable, but sit with your child through them. Often, they just need you to listen and show understanding.
3. Play games that build emotional intelligence.
We have a long list of many emotions that we act out in our homeschool day. Yes, emotional intelligence is part of our curriculum. Acting out emotions with your bodies or with puppets or toys is a great way to build emotional intelligence. Look through magazines or books and talk about what emotions are shown on people’s faces or give your child blank faces and various eyes, noses, and mouths to create their own faces. There are even some really neat toys that build emotional intelligence, such as Meebie and Kimochis.
4. Use conflicts to teach problem-solving skills.
Rather than sending your child to time out when she goes head to head with a sibling, teach her to look for a solution. “I understand that you are upset because your brother wants the same toy you are playing with. I won’t let you hit. How can we solve this?” If your child doesn’t offer up solutions, give her a few to choose from. “You can take turns with the toy. How does that work for you both?”
5. Set a good example.
Handle your own emotions well, especially in front of your children. Rather than yelling or using a harsh tone, be direct and kind. “It upsets me when you throw your food” is preferable over “all you do is make messes and drive me crazy!” Be honest about your feelings without exaggerating or dismissing them. “I’m feeling sad right now. Sadness is okay, it passes,” and of course, if you’re happy and you know it, let them know!