Parenting for healthy emotional development
The research in the fields of Attachment Theory, Developmental Neuroscience and Interpersonal Neurobiology tells us that children thrive when they have a secure, loving, responsive connection with their caregivers. It is this attachment bond that allows them to develop the secure sense of self that allows them to move out into the world and become happy independent beings. Children's healthy emotional development requires parents to be responsive and attuned to their emotional needs. Our ability to do this depends on our own emotional health, wellbeing and attachment history.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our feelings, to accept and allow all our feelings, feeling them fully rather than repressing them. It’s the ability to regulate and soothe ourselves in the face of strong emotion and respond flexibly to situations rather than react automatically or with a knee-jerk response. Emotional intelligence allows us to see and understand another’s feelings or point of view, to attune to and empathise with another. Emotional intelligence is essential for our happiness and emotional wellbeing, it enables us to have healthy, fulfilling and harmonious relationships and to be content, successful and effective in all areas of our life.
how children learn emotional intelligence
Our emotional intelligence plays a vital role in parenting. Our children are learning emotional intelligence through their interactions with us. How parents respond to their children literally shapes their brains and lays down patterns for their future relationships, lifelong mental and emotional health, self-esteem and resilience. It is through responsive, attuned interactions with their caregivers that children learn to regulate their emotions and develop their own emotional intelligence. As parents, our emotional intelligence helps us to listen to our children with empathy, and to set clear boundaries of behaviour with them without punishing or shaming them. It also allows us to respond flexibly to our children rather than being inflexible or reactive and helps us to respond to our children with connection instead of disconnection.
connection and empathy
Our connection with our child is what makes our child want to co-operate with us, and it also makes parenting a joy and a pleasure. Our connection with our child fills their emotional cup and strengthens our relationship with them. Learning to communicate and listen empathically is a vital part of parenting. Children often act up when they have unmet emotional needs or big feelings that they need help managing. Our empathy helps our child learn to manage their emotions. Empathy heals emotional hurts, it helps the child feel accepted and understood and less alone with their big feelings. When we meet our children's deep needs to be seen, appreciated and connected they thrive and they are happier and more cooperative.
"Empathy not only matters, it is the foundation of effective parenting." – John Gottman