Raising Emotionally Intelligent Preteens

Remember when you only had to worry about how to handle your toddler’s temper tantrum? Now you are the parent of a preteen who is going through an extended period of intense growth, not only physically but emotionally and intellectually. It’s understandable that it’s a time of confusion and unease for many families.

Emotions, both positive and negative, are part of human nature. The ability to recognize what you are feeling and why is a critical life skill needed to navigate all social and emotional situations. As we grow up, we become more skilled in understanding emotions through a skill called emotional intelligence. However, the transition from involuntary reactions to emotional intelligence that occurs mainly during those preteen years can be difficult for your child. As parents, it’s our job not only to help our children through this process, but also to equip them with the right tools to manage their own emotions.

Build Emotional Awareness
Children feel different emotions throughout the day. The length of time in which they experience certain emotions varies and influences their state of mind. Being able to accurately notice and label everyday feelings helps manage them. Practice identifying emotions with these easy steps.

1. Be aware of how you feel by labeling what you are feeling in that moment.
2. Embrace your feelings rather than hide them.
3. Explain to yourself why you are feeling what you are feeling.
4. Accept your emotions as natural and understandable so you can move on.

Manage Emotional Reactions
While it’s important to express how we feel, managing reactions means knowing when, where, and how to express yourself. Self-control helps regulate reactions based on whether it is the right time or place to express them. Untimely reactions or over-reactions can damage relationships. Carefully think about the best way to express your emotion before reacting.

Understand Other People’s Emotions
A large part of emotional intelligence is being able to empathize with other people or imagine what emotions a person is likely feeling. Empathy helps us care about others, build relationships, and guides us with what to say and how to behave around someone experiencing strong emotions.

Learn How to Change Your Mood
Part of managing emotions is choosing your mood. It’s important to have the ability to shift from a negative to a positive mood. Dwelling on things can drag you down and make you feel worse. Start by doing things that make you happy, even if you don’t feel like it at the time. Positive feelings create a sense of happiness and help you shift the emotional balance from negative to positive. Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings with friends, family, or a professional who can help you explore your emotions and give you a fresh way of thinking. Nothing helps you feel more understood than the support of someone who cares for you. 

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