Monday, April 30, 2012

Promoting “Emotional Intelligence” in Your Child








As most of you know, Dr. Susan Goodwyn and I are the authors of Baby Signs, the book based on our NIH-funded research that launched the sign-with-babies movement back in 1996. What many of you may not know, is that we followed up with two other books for parents, Baby Minds and Baby Hearts, both drawing from child development research and full of fun games, tips, and advice to help parents meet the challenges of raising kids.

One of our goals with Baby Hearts was to point out to parents that helping children identify emotions—both their own and others’—is a critical ingredient in enabling them to interact in a constructive and self-evaluative way with other people as they grow up. What’s more, it’s important that the emotions include not only positive ones like happiness, gratitude, and empathy, but also negative ones like anger, fear, frustration, and jealousy.

So, how can you help your child achieve such “emotional intelligence?” Below are a few tips:

Play the “show-me” game. Make a game out of matching words to facial expressions by taking turns naming an emotion for the other person to demonstrate.

Use emotions in pretend play. As you play “tea party,” “grocery store,” or any other pretend scenario with your child, remember to involve emotions. These are especially good opportunities to help your child express negative emotions like frustration, anger, and sadness.

Encourage puppet play. Puppets enable children to distance themselves from feelings they might be afraid to express otherwise. (In fact, eavesdropping on the pretend scenarios in which your child engages on his/her own is a good way to get a sense of what your child’s inner world is like at any given moment.)

Play the “Silly Song” game. Take turns singing familiar songs, such as the “ABC Song” or “Mary had a Little Lamb” with different emotional intonations and facial expressions. Your child will have fun suggesting what you should do next. (“Sing it like you’re angry!”)

These are all fun and easy ways to not only give your child practice with emotions, but also to send the important message that you are open to talking about even the “not so nice” ones.

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook)!

Linda

Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
and
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
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