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Building Emotional Intelligence

by Robin Goldstein-Lincoln

Understanding and communicating our feelings can be quite a challenge,

even for adults.

Here are some simple ways to help your children build their emotional intelligence:

Give the Feeling a Name Assigning a name to a feeling can help children feel less overwhelmed by their feelings. Help children develop a feeling vocabulary by regularly looking, together, at various feelings poster (easily found on-line). Your children might also enjoy making their own feelings poster with hand drawn pictures or photographs of their own facial expressions for each feeling.

Feelings are Information Explain to your children that feelings, and the related physical sensations in the body, are a source of useful information. This information helps them know what they need. Invite your children to think about the different things that people might need when they are experiencing different feelings. Some examples might include getting a hug when they feel sad or scared, taking a rest or break when they feel tired or discouraged, being listened to when they feel frustrated or regretful, eating a snack when they feel hungry, having something to drink when they feel thirsty, or cooling off with a cold, damp washcloth when they feel hot or overwhelmed. Help your children notice the personal differences that they, and others, might feel and need.

Teach Sensation Language Feelings are felt in and around the body as physical sensations (e.g., warm, cold, bumpy, smooth, light, heavy, soft, loud, tart, or bitter). These sensations give us important clues about what our bodies need. You can help your children learn more about their physical sensations by having them close their eyes and describe an item that they are touching, hearing or tasting. To begin, have your children focus on one sense at a time (e.g., touch, sound, or taste) and give them a variety of descriptive words to choose from.

Use Visual Images It can be difficult for children to communicate their feelings and needs. Visual images can help children better describe what they are feeling and needing. You can invite your children to share their feelings in the form of a weather report. For instance, "This morning I feel a bit cloudy with a chance of rain. I think I need a hug.” You can suggest that your children select a color that matches what they are feeling. For instance, today I feel blue. I think that I might be missing my friend who moved away. Or, you can try having your children use the image of a thermometer to communicate their feelings. For example, "I am running hot right now and need to take a sip of cold water so I can cool down."

Drawing To Share Our Feelings

Have your children draw what a feeling or sensation feels like in an abstract form, or the events or images that their feelings or sensations reminds them of. This visual expression can decrease the intensity of their emotion and increase their ability to verbally describe what they are feeling.


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