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What's it all about?

It’s a fast, furious world out there. Jobs. Extra-curricular activities. School demands. Aging family members. We find that we become focused on other things beyond our home that we forget what matters the most - our families. Our children do not spend enough time with us while our aging family members are neglected. This section is dedicated to building our families as a strong group and gives advice on how to better ourselves as a family. As cliche as it sounds, the children are our future and how we deal with them and raise them is crucial to their development and their contribution to the world. And we cannot ignore those who came before us. We must rejoice in the elderly and thank them for giving us the wisdom and support that we needed to get through life.

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Parents have less time to spend with their children. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have time to build a close relationship. In the blur of modern life, you may be overlooking an ideal opportunity to get closer to your children. Every time your children express an emotion, from fear to boredom, they present you with a real opportunity to become closer. Research is showing that children whose parents listen to their emotions and validate their feelings are better focused and better able to relate to others. Here’s how and why you should take stock of how you respond to your children’s emotions.

Building emotional intelligence

Many loving and attentive parents are at a loss when it comes to responding to their child’s emotions.

It’s possible to be a good parent, a very good parent, and still fail when it comes to handling your child’s emotions, says Karen DeBord, associate professor and state human development specialist at North Carolina State University.

Yet, says DeBord, a growing body of research suggests that parents who recognize and value their child’s emotions have closer bonds with their children. And the children gain as well. They’re more likely to be in touch with their own emotions and the feelings of those around them. They have what experts call emotional intelligence.

Not only will nurturing emotional intelligence help you build a closer relationship with your child, says DeBord. It will help your child navigate the world better, whether it’s handling friendships, teachers or co-workers.

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What type are you?

According to John Gottman, author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, there are four ways most parents deal with their children’s emotions. See where you are:

Dismissive parents trivialize feelings. These parents face a scraped knee or a social snubbing with: “You’re all right”. They downplay their children’s emotions, whether it’s sadness, boredom or fear. This kind of parent feels uncomfortable with their child’s display of emotions. They feel uncertain about what to do. Yet, when a child’s emotions are constantly dismissed, he learns his feelings are wrong or inappropriate.

The Disapproving parent criticizes or punishes the child for expressions and believes emotions make people weak or that negative emotions must be stopped. This parent greets a crying child with “What do you have to be sad about?” Again, this teaches children that their own feelings are wrong and inappropriate.

The Laissez-faire parent is adept at accepting emotions and offering comfort, but not at teaching problem-solving techniques.

Children accustomed to this sort of response may have trouble concentrating and getting along with others since they have not learned how to respond to their feelings.

The Emotion Coach is the kind of parent who accepts a child’s feelings without belittling or denying their emotions. These parents don’t try to control their child’s emotions. Instead, they see each expression as an opportunity to build a bond.

Changing your ways

If you recognized your parenting skills as anything other than the Emotional Coach, it’s time to alter the way you handle your child’s emotions. These tips will help you get started:

Stop and think. The next time your child expresses an emotion whether it’s a toddler melting down or a teen sighing in exasperation, stop and think. Imagine what you would usually say and imagine how that would make you feel in a similar situation.

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Connect don’t control. The next step is to see this expression as an opportunity to connect with your child. Instead of trying to control her emotions, connect with them. Say, “You seem frustrated” or “Is that making you sad”.

Room for discipline

Remember that empathizing with your child doesn’t mean the end of discipline. In fact, when you are in the habit of validating your children’s emotions, they’re more like to respect your opinion, says DeBord.

Connect don’t control. The next step is to see this expression as an opportunity to connect with your child. Instead of trying to control her emotions, connect with them. Say, “?You seem frustrated” or “Tell me more about how that makes you feel”.

A parent who is able to coach their child through their feelings not only empathizes, but helps the child consider solutions. By teaching and helping the child brainstorm solutions, parents help children learn this coping technique themselves. It can’t happen with just one time. This must happen each time you respond. Over time, the child will learn to manage their emotions as well as their frustrating situations even without you there to help.