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Nurturing Emotional Intelligence in Children: A Parent's Guide

In today's fast-paced world, where mental health problems are increasingly prevalent among children, adolescents, and adults alike, the role of parents in nurturing emotional intelligence in their children has never been more critical.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand, use, and manage one's own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. EI is measured by the emotional quotient (EQ). Alongside professional mental health care options such as Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) offered by Innerspace Counseling, parents' involvement in their child's emotional development plays a pivotal role in their overall mental wellbeing.

Common Emotionally Unintelligent Actions in Children

Before diving into how to nurture emotional intelligence, it's essential to recognize the signs of lacking EI. Some common emotionally unintelligent actions include:

  • Inability to Express Feelings: Children may struggle to verbalize their emotions, leading to frustration or aggression.
  • Poor Empathy: Difficulty in understanding or relating to the feelings of others.
  • Impulsiveness: Acting without considering the consequences or the feelings of others.
  • Difficulty in Handling Criticism: Reacting negatively to feedback instead of using it as a learning opportunity.
  • Frequent Emotional Outbursts: Regular tantrums or meltdowns over minor issues, indicating poor emotional regulation.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence: A Parent's Role

As a parent, nurturing your child's emotional intelligence skills is a journey of mutual growth and understanding. Here are ways to foster EI in your children:

  • Model Emotional Intelligence: Children learn from observing. Displaying emotional intelligence in your daily actions, such as expressing your feelings healthily, showing empathy towards others, and managing stress effectively, sets a powerful example for your children to emulate.
  • Encourage Expression of Feelings: Create a safe space for your children to express their thoughts and feelings openly. Encourage them to verbalize their emotions by asking open-ended questions and listening attentively without judgment.
  • Teach Empathy: Discuss scenarios that help your child understand different perspectives. For instance, talking about how a friend or family member might feel in a particular situation encourages empathy and understanding.
  • Develop Coping Skills: Teach your children healthy ways to manage stress and emotions. Techniques such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or using words to express feelings can be effective coping skills.
  • Praise Emotional Efforts: Acknowledge and praise your child when they make an effort to manage their emotions, show empathy, or express their feelings constructively. This reinforcement encourages continued emotional growth.
  • Emphasize the Importance of Mistakes: Teach your children that making mistakes is a part of learning. Help them understand and reflect on their mistakes, focusing on what can be learned rather than the error itself.
  • Practice Problem-Solving Together: Engage in problem-solving activities where emotions are involved. Discuss potential solutions and outcomes to conflicts or challenges, emphasizing the importance of considering others' feelings in the process.

Examples of how parents can incorporate these tips:

(All names are changed or fabricated)

Child #1: Sarah, 8 years old, struggled to express her feelings, often keeping her sadness to herself. Through sessions with their therapist, they uncovered a pattern: Sarah's mother also tended to suppress her emotions. Recognizing the need for change, their therapist recommended modeling behavior. Encouraging Sarah's mother to openly share her emotions created a safe space for Sarah to do the same. Witnessing her mother's vulnerability, Sarah gradually became more comfortable expressing her own feelings, fostering a deeper connection and understanding within their family dynamic.

Child #2: Eric, a 10-year-old, grapples with harsh self-judgment and an intense fear of making mistakes, often catastrophizing over minor mishaps. Recognizing the detrimental impact, their therapist recommended a shift in parental response. Advising Eric's mom to refrain from reacting negatively to his mistakes and instead reassure him that it's normal to mess up, they aimed to cultivate a more forgiving and resilient mindset in Eric. Implementing this approach, Eric gradually began to experience less apprehension toward daily tasks and developed a healthier perspective on making mistakes, fostering his confidence and overall well-being.

Child #3: Mia, 9 years old, struggled with managing her emotions, often feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. With guidance from their therapist, Mia's parents learned the importance of praising her emotional efforts. Instead of solely focusing on the outcome, they began to commend Mia for her attempts to articulate her feelings and for seeking help when needed. By acknowledging Mia's efforts in trying to understand and express her emotions, her confidence grew, and she felt more supported in her emotional journey. Over time, Mia became more proactive in expressing her emotions and coping with difficult situations, leading to a stronger sense of self-awareness and resilience.

How Innerspace Counseling Supports in Developing Emotional Intelligence

At Innerspace Counseling, we understand the complex nature of increasing emotional intelligence in children and the challenges it presents. Our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) are designed not only to address the immediate mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders but also to support the development of emotional intelligence through our family/support network sessions.

These sessions provide a platform for children, adolescents, and their families to engage in open discussions about thoughts and feelings, guided by experienced mental health professionals. Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), individual therapy sessions, and group therapies, we offer strategies for managing emotions, enhancing communication, and building empathy. Our treatment plans are tailored to meet the unique needs of everyone, ensuring that both the child and the family unit are supported in the journey towards emotional and mental wellbeing.

Innerspace Counseling's programs emphasize the crucial role of parents and families in the therapeutic process. We believe that by working together, we can create a nurturing environment that fosters emotional intelligence, resilience, and mental health care awareness. Our team of dedicated therapists and psychiatrists is committed to providing the highest level of care and support to our clients and their families, ensuring that each child has the tools and understanding necessary to navigate their emotions healthily. Our programs serve perinatal individuals, children, teens and adults.


Nurturing emotional intelligence in children is a critical aspect of their development and mental health. As parents, you play a vital role in guiding and supporting your child through their emotional journey. By fostering a supportive environment, encouraging open communication, and modeling emotional intelligence, you can significantly impact your child's ability to manage their emotions and interactions with others.

Innerspace Counseling is here to support you and your child every step of the way. With our comprehensive IOP and PHP programs, alongside specialized sessions designed to foster family involvement, we can help you and your child develop the emotional intelligence necessary for a healthy, fulfilling life. Remember, understanding and managing emotions is not an easy feat, but with the right help and guidance, it's an achievable goal. Together, we can work towards nurturing a generation of emotionally intelligent, resilient individuals.