Newsletter: December 2011
Emotional intelligence is a measure that determines a person’s control over his or her own emotions and behaviour. It is a trait that determines life outcomes such as success and happiness. The good news about emotional intelligence is that it is not gained through genetic inheritance alone; this trait can be readily learned and trained throughout a child’s developmental years.
However, we now face the tendency to ignore the importance of the fact that emotional intelligence is best formed during childhood years, and this can be a tough nut to crack. Most parents, understandably, are way too busy to be with their children during the first few years after birth. It follows the usual developmental pattern that young parents are also still in the midst of climbing the career and financial ladders. Consequently, their children are given less priority, sometimes practically set aside without much parental contact, in these critical years. The message that is being learned in the child’s mind would be, my parents do not love me.
It is not healthy for children’s emotional development to have the abovementioned negative thought running in their heads. This is simply because emotional intelligence lays its foundations in someone who grasps the concept that he or she is loved. People who believe they were never loved will be spending their lives trying to win the love they never had. They may do so through addictions or other unhealthy means, or they may spend their lives making others share their pain of being unloved by developing antisocial tendencies.
So how do we communicate to our dear children that they are loved while having two busy working parents in a family? Here are three simple tips to help build your children’s emotional intelligence.
- First thing we can do is to continually speak good things to them. They may not be old enough to have an intelligent conversation with, but they would definitely understand lines such as, “Daddy loves you” or “Mommy will always love you.” These simple one liners take less than a minute to express, but in fact are essential and will bring about positive long term effects on a child’s emotional development.
- Secondly, spend some time listening to them. When your children speak, take it as a chance to connect with them. Of course, please don’t expect them to make sense all the time. Listen to them, hear what they are trying to say and respond accordingly without dismissing or patronising them. At this tender age, children are constantly longing for their parents’ attention and validation. It is an excellent time to make your children believe that “Daddy and Mommy value my feelings”.
- Lastly, do not be stingy with hugs. This simple action tells your kid you really mean what you say (as suggested in tip #1), and your nice words are not just lip service. Make them feel that your love and protection keep them warm and secured. Take this opportunity to convey the message they are not emotionless objects but your sons and daughters, and they are precious to you in their own rights.
Childhood is the only time in your kids’ lives when their minds are almost “empty”, hence it is the period when they will believe everything they are told. It is best if we fill it up with memories of love and security rather than of hatred and resentment. So strike when the iron is hot; show our children what they really mean to us at the point of time when it really matters to them. Let us not procrastinate till the point that they don’t need us anymore, and then there would be nothing left to do for them.
This article is brought to you by Kirby Chua.
Kirby Chua is a registered psychologist and a professional counsellor, with accreditations from Singapore Registry of Psychologists, Singapore Psychological Society and Psychological Association of The Philippines. He is currently a psychology lecturer at various educational institutions and a counselling supervisor at Grace Counselling Centre. He specialises in counselling, psychodiagnostics and psychotherapy.