Developing Emotional Intelligence (EQ) helps teens better understand themselves. With a strong EQ they learn to manage their emotions effectively, become more empathetic, and build confidence. They are more able to minimize stress, grow healthy relationships and tap into their leadership skills. Teens can develop and strengthen EQ, especially with mindful guidance from you.
This blog is part two of Building Your Teen’s EQ. In the next few paragraphs, we will explore how you can respond to your teen when she’s feeling left out, awkward or ugly. These responses will strengthen her EQ and help her feel better.
Feeling Left Out
Feeling left out is a painful experience for teens and can create self-doubt. When teens feel left out, they may start ruminating on questions like:
Am I good enough?
Why doesn’t anyone like me?
What is wrong with me?
These thoughts trigger sadness and loneliness (which I explore in part one of Build Your Teen’s EQ) and may cause your teen to withdraw from social activities, become excessively preoccupied with social media, or lash out at home.
If you know or suspect your teen is feeling left out, show her you understand by validating her experience:
Yes, this is really hard.
While it is tempting to blame the people who are/might be leaving her out, try to avoid focusing on others. Instead focus on what your teen can control and the actions she can take to promote a positive change. Questions that can empower her include:
What choices do you have right now?
What actions can you take that might create a change?
Make a point to build her up by acknowledging her strengths and values. Say things like:
I admire how you are handling this difficult time.
You’ve overcome hard things in the past! You are a strong person.
Many teens tell themselves stories about who they are and how other people see them. A common sentiment and one I’ve heard from more than half of my teen clients, is “I’m awkward.” This can expand into:
I’m socially awkward.
I always say the wrong thing.
People, even my friends, think I’m weird.
I really don’t fit in.
Like feeling left out, these thoughts can create sadness, loneliness, and self-doubt. When you hear your teen express a sentiment related to being/feeling awkward, a response that will build her EQ and help her get out of a negative thought track is asking her:
Is that really true?
Does telling yourself that help you feel better or act differently?
Is there a more helpful and honest thought you can focus on?
In addition, explore what awkward means to her. She will likely discover she is not actually awkward, but does, like all humans, experience awkward moments. Start to normalize those awkward moments and help her see how they are a normal part of a conversation. They can be opportunities to laugh at yourself or show humility and humanness and can become building blocks to stronger connections with friends.
It can be so hard to hear your beautiful daughter say she doesn’t like how she looks. When she expresses personal criticisms like:
I’m so ugly.
My skin is disgusting.
I hate my legs.
You might be tempted to say something like:
Oh no honey, you are so beautiful. You should see what I see.
While this comes from a loving place, your teen is likely to think, you’re just saying that because you’re her mom/dad. A response that will build your teen’s EQ and help her deepen her understanding of beauty, is to explore what she doesn’t like about her appearance, what she can focus on that helps her feel pretty:
I get it. It makes sense that you care about how you look and I know it doesn’t feel good to dislike your appearance. Is there something you/we can do that might help you feel better?
Start an ongoing conversation about beauty and self-acceptance with these questions:
What does it mean to be beautiful?
Is beauty always about outer appearance?
What about yourself do you find beautiful/pretty?
What does self-acceptance mean to you?
How can you practice self-acceptance?
All of your teen’s emotional experiences are opportunities to develop her Emotional Intelligence. In all of these conversations, be curious, empathetic, and open to listening without judging.