How to make your child emotionally resilient
There's an increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of a sound emotional quotient (EQ) compared to the intelligence quotient (IQ). While IQ can get your child those extra grades in school, it's EQ that can get your child to sail through life's challenges. While there are board games and activities that claim to boost your child's IQ, nurturing your child's EQ is more of an inside job that only you as a parent can do.
Based on a recent study by the Industrial Psychiatry Journal, "a good deal of our successes and failures in life are not attributable to our cognitive abilities as measured by tests of IQ but rather are attributable to our abilities to form and maintain social relationships, portray ourselves positively, and manipulate how others perceive us. Those who lack such understanding may be said to lack Emotional Intelligence (EI), a type of intelligence that may be more important in reaching one's goals than traditional intelligence as measured by tests of IQ."
Unfortunately, there used to be a time when kids - especially boys - were taught not to express their feelings and made to control their emotions. Thankfully this is changing now.
Today, as well aware parents who are keen to make a positive difference, we can do simple things to nurture our child's emotional resilience. Here are some tips:
A child needs to be understood:
If your child comes up to you feeling upset about something, don't dismiss it. Acknowledge his feelings. Make him feel that you understand. It is going to give him a lot of relief. A word of caution here: at times don't try to fix things, just be a good listener. Trying to fix things or situations can upset a child because all he wants is someone to listen to him.
Children learn by observing:
Children are like sponges, as they absorb everything they see. How we as parents behave in times of crisis will translate to how well our children will learn to handle challenges. Instead of complaining if things don't go as planned, reframe your attitude: "This didn't go as planned, but I'm sure I'll get through this". A positive approach will have a positive effect on your child too, that if his mum or dad can handle this, so can he.
Let them vent it out:
Though it may be for you, allow your child to vent out her frustrations. At times you may be baffled why your child is behaving a certain way. It could be that something must be bothering her. In such cases, let her vent it out and try to understand the root cause. Speak comforting words that are empathetic such as, "You must be so irritated today. Your puzzle didn't turn out the way you expected," or, "That must be really upsetting". Many times, a child calms down when she feels she's understood. Try it.
Solving a problem:
How do you teach life skills to your child? It's no rocket science, trust me. You see, unlike a math paper, where the child can erase a mistake and write the correct answer, life doesn't give you options like that. So we have to equip our children with problem-solving skills, starting with something simple. For instance, earlier I would get irritated when my daughter would spill milk, especially when we're in a hurry to get ready for school. I realised it would hurt her a lot as she would observe my reaction. From then on, I consciously made a habit to tell her to bring the kitchen cloth and wipe the table clean without showing any frustration on my face (trust me initially it was hard, but now it's really okay). Now, I don't have to tell her anymore. Whether she spills milk or water, she mops it clean on her own and carries on playing, feeling happy and proud. I feel pleased seeing how gently I have empowered my little girl to be able to solve her own problems with a simple act of wiping off the spilled milk.
Being a single parent, I sometimes face several challenges when bringing up a child. Now as she's growing up, my daughter is realizing many aspects of a regular society. She sees her friends have a double parent family as compared to us. There are times she's very upset, and while I am helpless, I try and let her connect with her emotions as that is a part of her growing up process. How I handle such situations is that we read books or tell each other stories to understand different situations. If we don't like a certain story, we either try to accept it as a part of a story, or try and change the ending to a happier one. Personally, I have found this process very helpful as it has helped us understand and accept situations that are not in our control.
Be kind to yourself:
Being a parent is a challenging task. To teach our children to be emotionally resilient, we have to up our resilience first by being loving and forgiving to ourselves. There will be times when you will mess up, goof up, and there will be good days too. It is on the bad days that you need to love yourself more. During my divorce, I remember how hard it was for me to get up and get going. Even during my toughest days, my daughter has seen me get up, dress up and show up. This is a motto I live by. And I always tell her, that it is okay to cry, it is okay to fail, as long as we get up, dress up and show up.
To teach our children to be emotionally resilient, we have to be loving and forgiving to ourselves first. We have to set the right examples, be a good listener to them, allow them to vent out their frustrations and help them understand and accept situations. Inculcating emotional resilience does not happen overnight; it is a gradual, lifelong process but the fruits are beautiful.
Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai and a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women's University in Mumbai. She started her career 16 years ago by writing children's books, e-learning, content management for international websites and magazines and writing lifestyle and feature articles. She's the founder of The Lifestyle Portal an e-publishing platform that focuses primarily on entrepreneur profiling, entrepreneur directory listing, workshop reviews, feature stories and more. Shes also a Certified Parent-Child Play Practitioner and a Certified Story Teller.
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