Modern mamas are living in unchartered waters. Never has there previously been a time when emotional intelligence, resilience, empathy and kindness, have been on the parental consciousness as highly as it is today.
As modern parents focus on developing their children’s emotional intelligence in order to prepare them for the world they will inherit, there is one significant barrier. Not raised with emotional intelligence on the forefront of many of our own parents’ minds, a number of us are unfortunately lacking these skills and slowly developing them for ourselves. As we realise the importance of our children’s ability to manage their emotions and reactions, we are forced to accept that this is an area in our own lives which requires attention.
The big question is, how do we raise emotionally intelligent children when we are trying to understand and manage our own emotions, and become emotionally intelligent parents at the same time?
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is understanding and being aware of our emotions and how those emotions drive and impact our behaviour, and that of others. It’s understanding that these feelings influence our thoughts and actions and as we develop greater control over these, we develop our emotional intelligence.
Why is emotional intelligence an important part of parenthood?
Parenthood is full of difficult, frustrating and stressful situations. We are often left bewildered and frustrated by what is happening around us. Learning to be an emotionally intelligent parent enables us to respond to our children’s emotional and physical needs, and not solely react to the situation we are in.
How can we develop our own emotional intelligence?
All that sounds great, but how in fact, do we develop our own emotional intelligence skill set?
Take notice of your feelings
#Mumlife can get pretty hectic and overwhelming, and before we know it, the day is over. It’s super important to take some time during the day to stop and take stock of how you’re feeling. A simple way to do this is to set a timer for specific times of the day. When it goes off, stop and notice what is going on in your body- the physical sensations, thoughts and emotions. This awareness will help develop your emotional intelligence.
Think about your reactions and how you behave
When we are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with negative emotions, we can often react before having a chance to think about how we are really feeling. Taking a non-judgemental look at how we respond and behave, allows us to develop our awareness and control over our reactions.
Taking time to think about your feelings and how you behave allows you to respond appropriately to the situation, and can mean the difference between yelling uncontrollably at your child or been able to use the parenting moment before you as an opportunity for learning.
Put yourself in another person’s shoes
Seeing a situation from another’s perspective can help you develop your own emotional intelligence. Parenting contains so much emotional labour, and the constant need to manage the emotions of those around us can put a strain on our ability to control our own behaviours.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of others, can help us understand why others are exhibiting certain emotions. This awareness helps our overall response to those around us, including our children.
Acknowledge your emotional triggers
Parenthood is overrun with emotional triggers, and very often our children can mirror our inner feelings and our relationships with them can bring things up in us that we had long thought buried.
Acknowledging and being aware of these triggers enables us to develop our emotional intelligence. Ask yourself; how does this make me feel? How does this make me react? What are the physical sensations I’m experiencing right now?
Journal / keep a diary
As we endeavour to develop our emotional intelligence, a lot of things will come to our attention and awareness. As it can often be overwhelming to remember all the sensations and feelings, keeping a dairy can be super helpful in processing our journey.
Take some time at the end of each day to note down what occurred that day, how it felt and how you dealt with it (taking note of both your feelings and the outcome). Keeping notes will help you identify the common themes to your behaviour.
Keep a positive mindset
Developing our emotional intelligence is a life-long learning process, and it is important to keep an optimistic, growth mindset throughout the process. Growth is not linear, you will have great days and days in which you struggle to keep your emotions in check.
Aim to see setbacks as a learning opportunity, rather than a failure. After all, you are learning a whole set of new skills and endeavouring to teach these skills to your children, and as you become an emotionally intelligent parent, you will raise emotionally intelligent children.
By Dominique Ben
Dominique is a mama to 2 boys and co-founder of MummyCon.