There are plenty of actions you want to take in order to protect your preschooler from getting hurt or feeling down. There are also a lot of things you want to say to him especially when he is going through something tough. Sometimes, however, you end up being unable to control yourself and you say things you did not mean to say. It is a rather difficult task to always be mindful of the things you say and do in front of your child. You know that these could have detrimental effects on your child. That is why this article is made in order to help you become a better parent when it comes to teaching your child emotional intelligence.
Why is it that telling your preschooler not to be sad is something that you should not do? Or teaching him how to control his feeling of sadness is not emotionally and mentally healthy? It is because doing so is equivalent to discrediting his feelings, which are supposedly valid. Of course, your child is allowed to feel sad. He is allowed to cry. He could feel down about something. He will be upset. You can never avoid this. As a parent, you only want what’s best for your child and you want to save him from pain and displeasure. However, there is very little that you can do about a human being’s emotions. He is normal if he experiences sadness. He is not normal if he doesn’t. At this point, you must accept that there are so many things in this world that you cannot control, and one of those is the way your child is supposed to feel.
More than that, you are taking away your child’s chance to express himself by invalidating his feelings and not allowing him to label them. Bear in mind that a child’s awareness of how he feels is the first step to proper emotional management. When he does not know what he is feeling or what predominant emotions are inside of him, there will be no way for him to know how to attack these emotions and to control them. Moreover, he will just always end up invalidating his feelings every single time he feels that way and he will never know the proper way to cope. By allowing your child to feel that way and by telling him that whatever he’s feeling is valid, you allow him to express himself. One of the best results of this is his ability to be empathetic. Not only that. You will also be surprised as to how open he will become about his feelings. He will cry less and talk more about it instead.
Instead of invalidating his feelings, it is best for you to simply recognize them. Get to know your child more so that you will know what makes him happy, sad, disappointed, or scared. Understand him and do not prejudge him right away. Let go and do not be too overprotective. Do away with the “I want my child to always be happy”, because you know that this is highly improbable. If you cannot do these things, you will only hinder your child’s growth and maturity. You will cause him to find it rather difficult to go out into the real world and deal with the realities of life. Before all of this happens, you should take this unsolicited piece of advice: recognize your child’s emotions. Treat them as valid. Label them. Allow your child to embrace them. That way, he would feel human and he would understand what it actually feels like to live.
The next step to recognition is to teach him how to properly manage these emotions. Young as he is, he may be innocent and unaware of how these feelings are dealt with. Be his guiding light. Tell stories about yourself when you were feeling the same way and what you did about it. Show to them that they are not the only ones going through that phase, and that they are not alone in feeling sadness. Many people experience sadness of varying degrees. It’s inevitable, but it can be managed. Teach him that despite the sadness, there can be plenty of good things, and all it takes is to have a positive perspective.
When what makes them sad is something that can be solved, help him come up with a solution coupled with contingency plan. Do not be the one to provide the solution yourself. Allow him to explore his options and assess his emotions and the situation. This will slowly teach him emotional intelligence. Just be there to guide him and affirm or correct whatever his suggestions may be. The contingency plan will be for purposes of backup. Explain to him that things do not always go the way he wants them to, and therefore it is always best to have a backup plan in hand. This is so in order to lessen casualties and further emotional damage.
Do not always serve as a safety net for your child. Allow him to experience discomfort. Although it is quite hard to be “not always there” for your child, it is necessary for him to learn how to handle things on his own. When he wants to cry, offer your shoulder and give him a hug. When he wants to rant, just listen and get him ice cream afterwards. However, this does not mean that you make all decisions for him. Give him enough discretion in order to allow him to learn. Give him space so that he can make his personal assessment of what his feelings are and what he should do about it. Again, just serve as his guiding light. Teach him what is right and wrong and how to differentiate one from the other. Help him at every step of his discernment process. Present to them the possible consequences of his actions or decisions. But at the end of the day, balance is still key. You must make sure that he is given enough room to still make personal considerations and evaluations.