Parenting can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding jobs on the planet. As parents, we do our best to protect our kids, even if that means hiding our own problems and worries from our kids. While in some cases it may be good to hide these things from your kids, in some circumstances voicing your emotions to your children can help kids understand that parents have feelings too. Far too often parents try to hide their own emotions and struggles from their children in efforts to ‘protect’ them. However, in appropriate circumstances, sharing your feelings with your child can help to build emotional intelligence in both you and your child.
Emotional intelligence is your ability to understand, use, and manage your emotions in a positive way. Higher emotional intelligence helps the individual to better relieve stress, communicate effectively, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence is a key skill to have as it helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, as well as to achieve your career and personal goals. This skill helps you to regulate your own emotions, which may be challenging at times, as well as empathize with or understand others’ emotions. Having strong emotional intelligence may help you to build deeper and healthier relationships with both yourself and others.
How do you know if you have strong emotional intelligence? How can you work on improving your own emotional intelligence? Generally speaking, there are 4 key skills for building emotional intelligence and improving your ability to manage emotions. These skills are as follows:
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
Skill #1 (self-management)
Self-management is your ability to control impulsive feelings or behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, and adapt to new circumstances. Engaging your emotional intelligence on this level allows you to use your emotions in order to make constructive decisions about your own behavior. For example, when you become overly stressed it may make you extra sensitive and lower your rational decision-making skills. Practicing stress-relieving tactics is a form of self-management that can help you learn to receive and deal with challenging situations that provoke stress or other emotions. Finding mechanisms that support your emotional wellbeing can help you to manage your emotions as well as behaviors or impulses oftentimes caused by our emotions.
Skill #2 (self-awareness)
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your emotions and how they affect your wellbeing or behavior. Becoming self-aware requires a good amount of self-reflection and inward thinking. When we become self-aware, we are able to recognize our truest strengths as well as weaknesses. A great way to build self-awareness is by building confidence. Highly confident individuals are able to recognize both their strengths and weaknesses in a healthy manner, so they can therefore improve upon themselves. Confidence is based on your perceived ability to rely upon something or someone, with self-confidence referring to the belief in your own abilities. Therefore a great way to build confidence is to get things done, or otherwise put, set goals and stick to them. Continue trying to achieve goals no matter how big or small, and set new goals once previous goals are complete. Creating other small habits such as protecting honesty, following through with commitments, exercise, and meditation can help to build both self-confidence and self-awareness. These techniques may help you to better understand where your faults lie and may help you recognize as well as cope with your own emotions.
Skill #3 (social awareness)
Empathy and social awareness go hand and hand, both referring to the ability to understand the emotions of others. Those of us who are emotionally intelligent socially are better able to recognize and interpret the mainly nonverbal cues others use to communicate their emotions. Social awareness requires you to pay attention to the actions or behaviors of others, but that does not diminish your own self-awareness. In many ways, actively making an effort to pay attention to others can allow us to gain more insight into our own values, beliefs, and emotional states. It is important to remain present and engaged in social situations in order to practice demonstrating awareness for others and their emotions.
Skill #4 (relationship management)
Working well with others and the ability to build and maintain strong lasting relationships is highly influenced by emotional intelligence. Your ability to self-regulate emotions, as well as be mindful of your own emotions and others can significantly impact your relationships. Being able to relay your communication styles to your partner or other close relationships can help make conflict resolution easier. Many of us are taught to avoid conflict at all costs, but this is rather impossible to do in more long-term relationships and avoiding conflict can inevitably lead to more conflict. When we are able to resolve conflict in a healthy way this can actually be seen as a growing opportunity for a relationship. All parties involved are able to voice their opinions and express their needs in the current situation. Learning to see how relationships can benefit from some conflict, rather than immediately seeing it as a negative can help you to manage and maintain relationships.
Communication Tips for Parents
Emotional intelligence plays a large role in your ability to communicate effectively with your children and teach them effective communication skills. When we actively communicate with our children, we are placing our full attention on the verbal and nonverbal cues that our children express. You can use this as an opportunity to help your child recognize and validate their own emotions, as well as teach them ways to effectively cope with these feelings. Let’s face it, we are all human, and on our bad days even parents can make mistakes or act out inappropriately in front of our children. In efforts to be the best role model we can be to our children; it is important that we are mindful and aware of our own emotions and are taking care of them as best we can.
Set Aside Time to Communicate
Sometimes when we are first learning how to discuss and address our own emotions it can be rather uncomfortable. Set aside some time in your day where you are free and available to give your undivided attention to communicate with your child. A great time for this may be at the dinner table, or by going for an evening walk. Be sure to eliminate the use of cell phones or other potential distractions in order to create a space for active listening. Using time every day to communicate with your child, even if it is just about small everyday things, can help to establish trust and may make your child more open to talking about bigger events of their day. Be open to talking about all kinds of feelings (i.e., joy, sadness, surprise, anger, anxiety) that they may be experiencing so that they are comfortable talking about both their struggles and triumphs.
Teach the Importance of Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries is the ability to communicate with others as to how you would and would not like to be treated. Boundaries show respect for yourself and help protect the values you hold that are important to you. Help your child to identify healthy and unhealthy boundaries in relationships. Not only does identifying boundaries with others help to show how you’d like to be treated, but it also helps to show how you should treat others. You should allow your child to develop their own set of boundaries that are relevant to them and their values, but also set-up general guidelines as to how you should and should not treat other people. When setting boundaries with others, it is important that we practice the habit of healthy communication. It is important to be assertive and stand strong in your own boundaries but also be sure to be mindful of others’ feelings and perceptions when you are establishing your boundary. Communication is key here and be sure it goes both ways. Respect should be established for all parties involved when communicating personal boundaries. Practicing healthy communication styles and setting appropriate boundaries with your child can help them to develop and practice these skills in their personal lives as they grow older.
Red Mountain Colorado Can Help
At Red Mountain Colorado, we believe the inclusion of family in an adolescent’s healing process is extremely vital to their long-term success. Our family therapeutic process is designed to help parents and children address underlying issues in order to strengthen your family’s relationship.
Red Mountain Colorado is a residential treatment center designed to help struggling teens ages 13-17 through emotional and behavioral challenges. Our program specializes in the treatment of trauma-related mental health concerns. Throughout the program, we empower teens to build healthy coping skills and habits in order to overcome the challenges they may face throughout their lives.
For more information about how our program at Red Mountain Colorado can help your teen, please call (970) 316-7589 today.