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How to raise emotionally intelligent kids to conquer stress



8 tools parents can use to build their child’s EQ level

How to raise emotionally intelligent kids to conquer stress


Life is filled with stress, and there’s really no way for our children to avoid it. Whether it be worrying about schoolwork, making friends, or even choosing what outfit to wear to fit in, it is inevitable that children will experience the ups and downs of stress.

Although stress can be beneficial in short-term situations, it can become problematic when it gets too intense and frequent. By teaching children how to tap into their emotional intelligence (EQ)—the ability to recognize, direct, and positively express emotions— they will be able to better handle stressful situations throughout their lives.

Good and Bad Stress

Stress is our body’s natural reaction to a challenging or negative situation (whether real or imagined), which triggers the fight-or-flight response. This involves a rush of hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that cause a rise in blood pressure and heart rate. Good stress—or positive stress—is a normal and essential part of healthy development, as explained by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. This type of short-term stress is part of our natural survival instinct. It can keep us alive when we react to a threat, make us accountable for our actions, and motivate us to get things done. Without a little stress, children wouldn’t look both ways before crossing the street or study for tests in school—or be afraid of getting in trouble by their parents. 

On the other hand, experiencing strong, frequent, or prolonged tension can lead to toxic stress as hormones surge throughout the body without allowing it to rest and recover. This can take a toll on children’s mental and physical health, causing bothersome symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, aches and pains, and a whole host of other issues.

Toxic stress has also been associated with serious health problems like immune deficiencies, infections, heart disease, and even cancer. Unfortunately, stress that continues for months or years can also lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression, which can be detrimental to a child’s long-term development and even debilitating if not addressed.

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How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Children Manage Stress

EQ is a powerful skill that can help us better understand ourselves, overcome challenges, and build strong relationships with others. People with a high EQ can tolerate and constructively manage challenging feelings like sadness, anger, and fear. They also accept themselves and empathize with others. According to Wendy Baron of the Chopra Center, children with higher EQ have less anxiety because they have the ability to respond rather than react, and to understand what triggers their stress.

By learning to express emotions, listen actively, and consider multiple perspectives, children will develop more positive, caring, respectful relationships with others; resolve conflicts more easily; and become less stressed and more optimistic. When children are able to effectively manage their emotions related to stress and anxiety, they can regulate their nervous system so they can stay happy and healthy.

1. How To Build Emotional Intelligence. Fortunately, EQ is a skill that we can all learn at any time in our life. Here are some ways that you can help your children grow their EQ muscle:

2. Be Available and Open-Minded. Although there are probably many topics you hope to never have to discuss with your children, letting them know they can talk to you about anything will greatly expand their EQ. If children feel ashamed or scared to talk about certain topics, they may build up repressed emotions that could come out later in negative behavior. It is better to be an open and honest book now to keep the chains of communication going between you and your children for a lifetime. 

3. Provide Tools To Express Emotions. Expressing emotions thoughtfully requires us to first be aware that we are having them and then to be able to communicate them effectively to ourselves and others. One of the best ways to help young children express their emotions is to teach them easy, appropriate vocabulary to describe their feelings. Suggest phrases like: “I’m feeling scared because,” or “When this happens, I feel…,” or “I don’t like when…”. From a young age, help your children identify emotions through games, creative activities like drawing and writing, and reading books together. As they get older, a stress diary can be very helpful to track what triggers their strong emotions.

4. Listen Actively. Listening helps diffuse intense feelings. When we listen deeply to another person, we let them know that we hear them and care about them. Active listening requires you to be fully present so that you can understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. You can foster active listening by using eye contact, acknowledging what they say, and asking questions that show you are interested, such as “What was that like for you?” or “How did that make you feel?”.

5. Accept Their Emotions. Teach kids that they can’t choose their emotions, but they can choose what to do with those feelings. By accepting how they feel, you let them know they are safe and it is alright to feel that way. Even if you don’t agree with them, you can still let them know you understand how and why they feel that way. Just by acknowledging how they feel, you can guide them in finding a calm, productive solution.

6. Explore Multiple Perspectives. Experiencing other people’s perspectives broadens our thinking, builds empathy and compassion, and reduces hurtful behavior toward others. To build this skill in your child, you can ask questions about characters while reading a story or watching a show together. Explore how different characters feel and why they may feel that way. Talk about conflicts the characters experienced. With older children, you can ask them about different views on current events, looking at all sides of an issue. As children are exposed to more perspectives, they become more flexible in their thinking, making them more accepting and tolerant of others and themselves.

7. Let Them Know It’s Okay To Fail: Mistakes help us learn and grow. Children who never experience failure can end up feeling anxious and helpless down the road. Teach your children the importance of learning from mistakes, and that they don’t need to be good at everything or liked by everyone to be happy and successful in life.

8. Love Them Unconditionally: Children need to feel that their parents will support and protect them. Giving unconditional love means having your children’s back whenever they feel threatened, unsafe, bullied, or vulnerable. Even if you don’t agree with their position or feeling, you can still give them unconditional love.

9. Teach Them Stress Management Tools. Identify ways for them to respond to stress by using creative calm-down strategies like meditation; mindful exercises; yoga; breathing exercises; visualization; and distraction techniques like music, art, or going for a walk outside in nature.



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