Tommy was playing with friends, when suddenly; he accidentally fell and instantly started crying. His mother, who was watching from a distance, shouted, “Tommy, don’t cry! Don’t be a crybaby. It’s not a big deal.” But the harder he cried, the more his mother got upset. Let us imagine, if you were Tommy, a little child, who had fallen and was hurt, how would you react? Of course you would cry too. Sadly, what if we really wanted to cry, but were forbidden to do so? Naturally, if we are hurt we want to express ourselves. Unfortunately, society sometimes forces us to refrain from crying. It is not only crying that we are expected to avoid. There are many negative emotions such as sorrow, fear, and anger that we should not express. Eventually, over time, we get used to refraining from showing our feelings. We become trained to hide our feelings. However, God created these negative emotions for a reason. Even Jesus, Himself, felt sorrow, fear, and anger at times. If we become accustomed to always discarding these negative emotions, then one day we might not be able to recognize the feelings we are experiencing.
When a person is able to recognize his feelings, he is one step closer to becoming an emotionally intelligent person. An emotionally intelligent person is one who is able to recognize his own emotions. He is able to interpret how others respond to him. He has the capability of expressing his hopes and passions. How do we make our children emotionally intelligent people? We must first set a good example in managing ourselves, which is expressed through our behavior and words. We need to have a self-awareness of our emotions. Being emotionally aware means knowing when we feel an emotion, identifying it, and being sensitive to the presence of the emotions of others.
Through this awareness, we can become emotional coaches for children. As an emotion coaches, we teach children about how to recognize their feelings, regulate their emotions, and resolve the problems that they face on day-by-day bases. Through this ability, children will develop high self-esteem and get along better with others.
There are 5 steps we can do to become a good emotion coach for our children:
1. Teach children emotional awareness
We should assist children in understanding what they are feeling. We should guide them about how they should respond.
2. Counsel children on how to react to their emotions
When children experience a crisis we should discuss their problem with them and help them to explore their feelings. Through this counseling, we will become closer to them and prevent potentially worse problems in the future.
3. Listen with empathy and strengthen the children’s self-esteem
It is important for us to empathize with our children. To perform this step, we can apply the reflective technique by restating what we have observed from the child. For example, a parent might say, “I notice that you always frown when I talk about your classroom teacher.” Then wait for the answer before responding. Avoid questions that you know the answer to, for example, “What time did you come home last night?” It would be better to open conversations with direct observation, like, “You came home after one o’clock last night, that is unacceptable”. Using examples from our own lives can be a good way to show understanding. Thus, children will believe that the emotions that they are experiencing are reasonable and he is not the only one who feels this way, even his parents have experienced it.
4. Help children identify their emotions
We need to help children identify their emotions, the more precise and specific the better. They should be able to identify disappointment, jealousy, abandonment, emptiness, depression, etc. We should explain to children that sometimes there is a mixture of emotions, and that it is natural. By identifying the emotions it will help the children transform the feelings that are making them uncomfortable into something that they can understand and handle. They will acknowledge that it is a natural part of everyday life.
5. Set limits while helping our children solving their problem.
We should set limits or boundaries to guide our children to distinguish the predominance of a particular feeling that made them express an improper behavior. We should explain to them that it is okay to be angry, but being violent is not acceptable. We can help children set goals for themselves, by reflecting on what was observed during their expression of emotion and ask them what made them so mad. Then collaborate with them to think of a better way to show what they are feeling. In thinking about the solution, allow the children to take an active part in discovering solutions for themselves (especially for children over 10 years old), we are only in charge of guiding them. We can ask questions for evaluating such as; “Is the idea safe?” or “Will it work?” Lastly, of each possible solution, assist the children in choosing the best solution based on the evaluation. Help children to see the results of their decision. Regardless of whether the children face the error of their decision, they will benefit from the experience.
After applying these steps, we must remember that as parents, it is important for us to remain vigilant about everything that happens in our child’s life. We should set a good example in managing our emotions, and our children will respond well.
Gottman, John., & DeClaire, Joan. (2008). Mengembangkan Kecerdasan Emosional Anak. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama
IPEKA Counseling Center