Emotionally healthy kids are able to cope effectively with life challenges and kids who have developed their emotional regulation skills generally have easier and better relationships. Being able to properly feel emotions has been associated with many positive outcomes, but how do you know whether or not your kid is emotionally healthy or on the way there?
Here are a few characteristics of emotionally healthy kids.
1. They're aware of what they're feeling
An emotionally healthy kid is one who has learnt to identify his or her emotions. He is able to tell the different emotions apart and identify what he's feeling. Teaching kids to identify their emotions using age-appropriate strategies is the first step in helping them develop their emotional intelligence.
2. Are aware of others' emotions
Everywhere we go, everywhere we look, we will find emotions. An emotionally healthy kid is able to identify other people's emotions. In other words, she can accurately describe other people's feelings by looking at them or by the tone of their voice. Opportunities to teach kids to identify others' emotions abound. For instance, helping kids accurately describe the emotions displayed in a book they are reading can help them become more aware of others' emotions.
3. Have empathy
Freud thought that kids were way too egocentric to care about other's feelings. He has repeatedly been proven wrong. As early as age two, kids are capable of displaying empathy-related behavior. For instance, they can show concern or give hugs to people who look distressed. When we help our kids cultivate empathy, we also help them develop their emotion regulation skills.
4. Know what triggers their emotions
Although we're all born with a few emotions already pre-wired into our brains, many other emotions are learned from our experiences and our social and cultural contexts.
A kid's display of strong emotions reflects his or her emotional reaction to a specific situation. For instance, a kid thrown into the deep end of the pool to teach him how to swim might feel anxious or scared every Friday if he has swimming on Fridays. Depending on the situation, this anxiety can also trigger other emotions such as shame.
An emotionally-healthy kid knows what triggers his emotions and is thus better able to identify appropriate ways to deal with emotion-provoking situations. For example, he knows which situations to walk away from and which situations he needs to learn to cope with.
5. Develop techniques to help them deal with strong emotions
The ultimate goal of helping kids develop emotion regulation skills is to help them learn to manage their emotions by themselves. We can't always be there to help our kids deal with their emotions, which is why it's important to provide them with an appropriate framework in which they can learn to deal with their emotions by themselves. An emotionally healthy kid knows how to identify the symptoms of strong emotions—sweaty palms, rapid heart beat—and what to do to calm down—go to a quiet space, ride a bike, color a mandala. They don't need you to be there to react appropriately to his or her feelings.
6. Know that emotions are normal
They're not ashamed of their emotions and know that these emotions are valid. They know that their emotions are normal and that everyone has emotions. An emotionally healthy kid knows that although she might not be able to avoid or control emotion-provoking situations, she can control how she reacts to them.
Helping kids develop their emotional intelligence is a three-phase process that involves helping them identify emotions, guiding them to identify their triggers and providing them an appropriate framework to help them learn to cope with those emotions by themselves.