Saturday, May 7, 2016

Children: Emotional Competence

Emotional competence is a fancy term for getting a handle on strong emotions, learning how to evaluate emotional needs, and crafting an appropriate response.

It will come as no surprise when I tell you children are not born with this skill! While some children feel emotions with more or less intensity, all children need to learn emotional competence.

Children learn this skill in their environment, when situations are appropriate for their age, and when they see adults regulate emotions.

Children who successfully regulate emotions are better learners because learning is hampered by strong emotions such as anxiety, anger, and sadness. Children who regulate emotions are more successful with social skills and have better mental health.

Any age child can use some direct teaching when it comes to emotions and the lesson plans for this are not terribly hard. Parents can watch for appropriate times to do the following:

Name the emotion and the actions that go with it:

  • Your hands are in fists; are you angry?
  • You are standing close to me; are you worried?
  • You are not talking very much; are you sad?

Normalize the emotion:

  • You are angry about losing the soccer game. Your teammates are angry, too. Soon, you will feel better and then you can use your anger to practice harder.
  • You are very sad about losing your pet. You feel sad because you loved your pet very much. Right now it feels like you will never feel better, but you will feel a bit better every day.
  • You are very nervous about going to the dentist. Do you remember that you were nervous last year, too? You were brave and got through that with a little bit of help. What will help you this time?

Read books with emotions as part of the plot:
  • How does this boy feel about what has happened?
  • What will help this girl with her sadness?
  • Is it okay for this person to be angry?
Learn strategies for dealing with emotions:
  • How can you cool down?
  • How can you relax?
  • What can you do to feel better?

Praying is a good way to calm down, practice mindfulness, and to remember that control of our emotions is a blessing from God.

For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. I Corinthians 14:33


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