Understanding emotions in the child



Emotional intelligence is that special ability that allows us to manage emotions ; it is important and must be cultivated since birth.

Often, as parents, we focus mainly on the development of cognitive skills, but we must never forget that the emotional component is equally important and should not be underestimated.

Paraphrasing the philosopher Umberto Galimberti, leaving the development of emotional intelligence to chance, we run the risk of finding ourselves at home, in a few years, more lonely, more nervous, more impulsive and even more depressed adolescents; in short, less prepared to face life.

But ... how is a child educated to manage his emotions properly?

Innate emotions in the child and the role of the parent

There are six emotions, defined as primary or basic, which constitute the innate emotional set . Children experience them from birth: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust ; from the meeting of these six emotions all the others are derived.

Initially, children are not able to manage them or even recognize them and this is precisely what they will have to learn to do with time and with the support of adults.

Throughout childhood and even during adolescence, children experience so many emotions; sometimes they feel overwhelmed by emotions because they have not yet acquired the skills to integrate them adequately into their lives.

The parent, the adult, has an important and very complicated role: recognizing these emotions, understanding them, giving them a value and telling them to the child. And this applies to all emotions, including negative ones; sometimes we make the mistake of denying negative emotions (the pain resulting from mourning, for example) to protect the child but, in doing so, we get the opposite effect; denying emotions is not a protective factor and there is a risk of triggering very negative mechanisms for the child's emotions.

The parent has the task to take the child by the hand and lead him by the tortuous, fascinating way that leads to the awareness of his own emotion. The adult's task is to enter into emotion with the child and make it available, using age-appropriate tools and perspectives.

The parent must enter into sadness, together with his son, and into joy; must enter into fear, anger, surprise and disgust of the child, must accompany him inside the emotion and, living it, teach him to live it in turn.

Read also how to calm children's nervousness

Let's take a practical example?

Davide is five years old and is afraid of the dark, which is why he never wants to go to sleep alone in his bedroom. Telling him that monsters do not exist and that no one will be able to enter his room means going directly to the rational level, without having passed through the child's emotions.

Instead, we must address the issue with empathy, enter the child's emotional state and recognize that it must be truly frightening to fear that a monster may emerge from inside the wardrobe.

The parent, therefore, to deal with the matter in a more constructive way, will be able to accompany Davide into the room, open the wardrobe with him and then look under the bed.

Turn off the light, stay a little in the dark, turn the light back on and do another little check; reassure him, and stay a while with him before leaving the room.

He will also be able to tell him a story about fear. In this way, the parent will not have simply rationalized, he will not have solved the question by himself, but, entering into the emotion of the child, he will have created a bridge between emotionality and rationality, between heart and brain, he will have created a mechanism that the child he will be able to observe and internalize, thus learning, with time, to manage his own emotion independently.

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