We want the best for our children. From the moment they’re born, we look for ways to stimulate learning potential and strengthen their IQ (Intelligence Quotient). While studies differ on whether we can actually enhance IQ, they concur that we can – and should – support Emotional Intelligence/Quotient (EQ). Doing so not only improves a child’s ability to learn, it provides tools for managing emotions and developing coping skills that result in healthy self-esteem and good decision-making.

What is EQ?

EQ is defined as the ability to identify and manage emotions, as well as having regard for the emotions of others. People with high EQ exhibit leadership skills and are typically excellent team members. Of course, we want our children to have a high EQ. However, with our busy adult lives and our child’s organized play, we seem to be ignoring its importance. Today, nearly one in five children has an emotional disorder such as anxiety, depression, or behavioral conduct problems.

According to Dr. Gerald Newmark, founder of the Children’s Project, “[It is vital] to create a positive atmosphere in which family members interact with each other in ways that make everyone feel respected, important, accepted, and secure.” In doing so, “we can become a powerful force for developing emotionally healthy and high-achieving children and families.”

Try incorporating these strategies into your family’s routine:

Model Coping Skills. Children learn by observing you. Research shows this begins in the prenatal period, when developing babies sense maternal stress. When your anxiety levels get high, don’t just muddle on. Take time out. Do something just for you. This kind of self-awareness models emotional health and shows children how to cope with stress.

Solve Problems Together

Whether it’s kids who don’t want to get out of bed for school or an epic struggle around chores, open communication is the best way to reduce tension. Talk with your kids about what’s important to your family and why. Invite them to offer solutions.

Listen to Your Kids

Too often adults view kids’ problems as insignificant or silly. But our children see themselves as real people with real problems. Ask them about their challenges and concerns. When children feel heard, they feel validated and that builds trust between them and you.

Express Gratitude

Acknowledge the good things in your life; this steers focus away from negative events and gives new perspective to tough situations. Keep a family journal, or during mealtime have each person express what she or he is grateful for that day.

Honor a Child’s Spirit

Children can experience profound moments that shape their lives in enduring ways. It can be a moment of wonder (seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time) or an awareness of their own inner wisdom (an ‘a-ha’ moment). It can be moments in which children ask big questions about life. Set aside time to discover and discuss these experiences.They can become cornerstones in a child’s evolving sense of themselves and an awareness of something greater than the material world.

Firestone, L. “7 Tips to raising an Emotionally Healthy Child.” Psychology Today website. Accessed on April 8, 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201211/7-tips-raising-emotionally-healthy-child
The Children’s Project.com Extensive Resources on “Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools & Communities.” Accessed on April 8, 2016. http://emotionallyhealthychildren.org/resources/
–also see: Family Meetings: http://emotionallyhealthychildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Family_Meetings.pdf
CDC 24/7. “Children’s Mental Health Surveillance Report – U.S. 2005-2011.” Accessed on April 11, 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/features/childrensmentalhealth/
Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. Online resources accessed April 9, 2016. http://www.danielgoleman.info/topics/emotional-intelligence/
Kamrath, S. “Happy Healthy Child: A Holistic Approach – An Interview with Bruce Lipton.” (2012). Brucelipton.com Accessed on April 11, 2016. https://www.brucelipton.com/resource/article/happy-healthy-child-holistic-approach
KidsHealth.com Resources for Understanding Children’s Emotions & Behavior. Accessed on April 8, 2016. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/emotions/
MedlinePlus.com “Stress in Childhood.” Accessed on April 8, 2016. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002059.htm
Walton, Alice G., “How Parent’s Stress Can Hurt a Child, From the Inside Out.” Forbes online. July 25, 2012. Accessed on April 8, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/07/25/how-parents-stress-can-hurt-a-child-from-the-inside-out/#74c7a4ff13f8
Repetti, R. L.,Taylor, S.E., et al., “Risky families: Family social environments and the mental and physical health of offspring.” Psychological Bulletin (Mar 2002).128(2), 330-366. Accessed on April 8, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.128.2.330
Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning. Family Tools for Nurturing Children’s Social Emotional Development. Accessed on April 8, 2016. http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/resources/family.html
ChildSpiritInstitute.com Global Resources and Network on Children’s Spiritual Life and Wellbeing. http://childspirit.org/about/overview/
Blanchard, L.T. et al., “Emotional, Developmental, and Behavioral Health of American Children and Their Families: A Report From the 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health.” Pediatrics (June 2006). 117(6). Accessed on April 8, 2016. PDF available: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/6/e1202.short
Association for Psychological Science Online. “Change in Mother’s Mental State Can Influence her Baby’s Development Before and After Birth.” Accessed on April 11, 2016. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/a-fetus-can-sense-moms-psychological-state.html
American Psychological Association. Identifying signs of stress in your children and teens. Available at http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-children.aspx. Accessed on April 8, 2016.
American Academy of Pediatrics. “Tips to Promote Social-Emotional Health Among Young Children.” Accessed on April 8, 2016. http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/health/docs/se-tips-care-providers.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=OHS+Children+Mental+Health+Awareness+Day+-+May&utm_content=OHS+Children+Mental+Health+Awareness+Day+-+May+CID_0dc7d994ec2c0e19e5900739f723c066&utm_source=CM%20Eblast&utm_term=Tips%20to%20Promote%20Social-Emotional%20Health%20Among%20Young%20Children