Friday, September 15, 2006

Your Child's Emotional Health

By Heather Pohlabel

Experts now believe that your child's emotional state is as equally important to his future success as his IQ (intelligence quotient). They have even labeled and made tests for the emotional quotient (the EQ, as it is referred to). It is a measurement of how well your child relates to others and manages his emotions. I find this new measurement of future success very reassuring for my children.

I have a broad spectrum of intellectual variance among my children, but I have always believed that the person inside of them (who they were) and their personality would help them to be successful, regardless of how well they did in school or if they went to college. Now the experts agree that it's more than what you learn; it's how you apply it and how you respond to people and the world around you that will contribute to your overall success!

One of my children has a learning disability, but a grand sense of right and wrong and justice. He struggles in school and will probably not tolerate college very well, but aspires to be a police officer or in the armed forces. I am comfortable that based on his emotional quotient, as they call it, that he is well-equipped to handle injustice and to deal with the bad guys appropriately! He may not take a test very well, but he is very good at explaining to someone why they are wrong.

Another child is extremely bright and is enrolled in the gifted and talented program at her school. She wants to go to college forever and have all kinds of careers; she has not made up her mind yet. She is also very social and friendly, but is very egocentric. She has a fairly high IQ for her age, but her confidence in herself is what has made her successful so far.

The baby is too young to tell, but so far, she has been responding and growing at an above average rate. We think she's going to be a genius (don't all parents think that of their newborn children?!), but what we really want is for her to comfortable with WHO she is, no matter how smart she is.

To raise kids with high EQ, you need to nurture their emotional needs as well as their intellectual needs. Children with stay at home moms or strong family units tend to have a stronger EQ because they have the confidence that someone is always there for them to support them in their choices and to guide them through their failures, so they tend to take more chances and explore more things. They are also a bit more social due to this.

Begin offering support for your child as soon as he is born and keep practicing! Don't give up when he starts to explore his own world. Don't let the television set be the babysitter. Support your baby in his world by guiding him through it, not by observing him in it.

Learn your baby's cues to his needs and respond appropriately. If he needs a diaper change, do it as soon as you can. If he is hungry, feed him. If he just needs you to play with him, take the time to play with him and teach him the things he needs to know to grow in his environment. The reassurance that you are there and will tend to his needs will give him comfort and assurance that someone cares about him and that his needs are important and will be met. He will learn to trust, and you will have taught him that.

He will feel more comfortable exploring new things, and with your guidance, will be able to handle new experiences. Since your child will trust you,when you offer him the opportunity to explore new places, such as a day care or play group, or even offer him a new food, he will be more likely to try it because he knows that you care about him and if it is unpleasant, you will comfort him. This will remain a trait he will exhibit as he grows older and more confident in himself and his ability to handle new experiences, such as school and a career, which in turn can make him more successful in both of those future endeavors.

When you're playing with your child and responding to his needs, remember that you are making him feel comfortable in his world. So comfortable that he will be able to interview well for a job or for a promotion because he has learned that he is important in the world, and you have taught him that.

EQ does not only stem from the support that parents give their children. It also comes from parents dealing with their children in an honest way. Being honest about how you feel or helping your child to express how he feels will help him to deal with his emotions properly because he knows what they are. If, for example, your child is exhibiting restlessness, he may be nervous about something, but is not sure what feeling is or why he is feeling it. Exploring that feeling with him will not only help him face it, but to overcome it.

My daughter recently had a bad case of the "meanie greenies" as her school counselor called it. Jealousy. She was extremely jealous of the time that her friends got to share with each other in the classroom. Since she had a different teacher, she was unable to share this time with them, and began having severe physical and emotional symptoms. The first week of school, she missed three days. We took her to her doctor, who said she had a classic case of school avoidance.

Upon returning to school, however, she did not get better. She would cry before school, she wasn't eating breakfast, complained of a stomach ache every day or some other ailment like a headache. It wasn't until the third week of school when I finally was able to get the school counselor to see her that she was able to find out what her problem was and to find ways to deal with it. Up to that point, it had been an unknown anxiety to her that was ruining her life. We felt helpless, and even though we have always been supportive and honest with her, she was not able to explain this even to us. We explored every option, and found someone else for her to talk to. Sometimes that is what it takes.

Don't feel as if you've failed or that your child is different because he responds to a counselor. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Counselor's help people deal with their emotions, strengthening their EQ! Had our daughter not talked to the counselor and dealt with her jealousy, she would still not be eating and would be crying every day, eventually leading to decreased performance in school and in life.

Supporting your children, being honest with them, and helping them to figure out their own feelings are all ways to encourage a stronger emotional quotient in your children.

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