Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is essential for teenagers. With a strong EQ, your daughter can manage her emotions and increase her empathy, confidence, and overall well-being. EQ is also tied to healthy relationships, leadership skills, less stress, and higher motivation.
Teens are not born with a high EQ, but with your guidance, they can develop and strengthen it. One of the most effective ways to promote EQ is through your response to your teen’s emotions. For example, there are specific ways you can respond when your teen is deep in sadness, lost in loneliness, or shaken by anxiety that will deepen her self-awareness and sharpen her Emotional Intelligence.
In this series of blogs, we will take a close look at common teen emotions and parent responses that build EQ.
When you notice that your teen is sad, your natural reaction might be to ask, “Why?” While it’s natural to want to understand what caused your daughter’s upset, she might not always know the answer to why and not knowing, is likely to cause more distress. Instead, you can show your concern and compassion by offering validation, reassurance, and compassion. Honor her sadness so she learns how to do the same. You might encourage her to express her sadness through tears, journaling, or art. You can say something like, “It’s OK to feel sad.” It can also be helpful to emphasize that all feelings, including sadness, are temporary, and while the feeling is around, it’s important she go easy on herself. Encourage her to talk with someone she trusts, even if that person might not be you.
At some point, your teen is likely to feel lonely. Whether it stems from real or perceived social isolation, exclusion, or rejection, when your teen feels lonely, she’s very likely hyper-focused on the unhelpful stories she’s telling herself. These stories usually sound like:
Something is wrong with me. Everyone else was invited….
No one likes me. All the girls at school give me weird looks…
I’m not cool enough. I always say the wrong thing or act weird.
I’ll never have a best friend. Everyone but me has “their person.”
When your daughter is stuck in this cycle of negative thinking, she needs your help in gaining a broader, more helpful perspective. You can do this by asking, Is that really true? Could it be something else? Take it a step further by helping her gain a sense of control. Help her determine actions she can take to feel less alone. This might be calling an old friend, starting a conversation with someone new, or planning on some fun time with the family so she sees that she is part of something.
It is very common for teens to experience feelings of anxiety. Although most of those experiences do not indicate an anxiety disorder, teens will self-diagnose and believe that something is really wrong with them. You can help your teen differentiate between common, normal feelings of anxiety and an anxiety disorder. For example, normalize feelings of anxiety or nervousness before a big test, performance, or presentation. This is a natural response to high-stakes situations. In such cases, your teen needs tools that promote a sense of calm and groundedness. These can include specific breathing techniques, movement, journaling, visualization, or talking with a professional. On the other hand, if she frequently experiences feelings of intense fear, terror, or worry and those feelings are difficult to control or interfere with daily activities, it is wise to seek a medical assessment. In all cases, it’s important to control your emotions. If you freak out or overreact to her anxiety, she will likely feel even more like something is “wrong” with her.
In the next blog, we’ll take a closer look at another three common and powerful teen emotions: feeling left out, awkward, or ugly, and how you can respond in a way that promotes Emotional Intelligence.