Our kids can often bring up emotions in us we never knew existed - or have been long forgotten, squashed, or avoided. Keep reading for the FIRST KEY STEP in learning how to develop your own emotional intelligence.
Believe it or now, we experience hundreds of emotions every day. But we're often only good at identifying some really basic ones...like "mad, sad, angry, or scared." Oh, and tired. What parent doesn't know "tired" inside and out!
One of the best ways we can begin our journey towards stronger emotional intelligence is by taking one step forward. One step towards more self-awareness.
Why self-awareness? Because WE have to be able to sense and recognize how we're feeling in any given moment to be able to a) connect with the need or value that's being unmet or perhaps not honored b) identify the sensations in our bodies that go along with that feeling and be able to sit with those so we can widen our Window of Tolerance and c) be able to model this to our kids.
Our kids are going to learn self-awareness when we've modeled what the looks and sounds like.
So...where to start?
By looking - honestly and without judgement - at the emotions we experience each day and reflecting on what may have triggered them. We look for patterns (often ingrained in us from a very early age) that have hung on for this long. We look for them with the intent to eventually rewire them. With patience, self-compassion, and consistency.
Read below for 3 steps on how you can build your emotional self-awareness:
Step 1 - The Feel Fifteen (F15)
Take 15 minutes every evening to jot down a list of the top 10 emotions you felt during that day. You may find that you come up with more than 10 or you may find that you can only separate your feelings into the same few. That's okay! That's where you start! If you're interested in using a "How I Feel" Emotions Wheel, click here to download it and reference it each day!
Look back at the end of the week and see if there are a few emotions that you regularly feel and notice if there's a pattern emerging. That pattern will give you such rich information about your emotional state - and what needs are asking to be met or what boundaries are asking to be honored.
Step 2 - Brainstorm Your Parenting Superpowers
To develop a better sense of your strengths and areas of growth, take some time to identify areas in your parenting that you're really great at and others where you struggle. Again...no shame here! We're all unique and are all coming into parenting with our own experiences BEING parented and living in the world around us.
Me? I'm really great at being curious when it comes to my kids and letting them take (age-appropriate) risks. And in getting them outside to enjoy nature. Pretty much daily.
What I'm not so great at? Play and being silly. I don't last long and I can get caught up in the fact that the "rules" are always changing. My husband? This is his strength.
Compile a list of your strengths and your areas of growth. Then use these as areas in which you can connect your emotions and your beliefs in these areas to better understand yourself and how you are - in relationship with those around you.
Step 3 - Strengthen your Sensations Sensor
Our bodies...like our actual physical bodies...are always taking in information from the world around us. And our brains are determining what we should think and feel about that information.
The old me? Speaking in public made my heart beat super fast, my cheeks flush, my hands get super sweaty, my brain become so fast that my mouth couldn't keep up, and my breathing get so much shallower and quicker.
I felt like I was dying. Not really but my body was definitely activated.
It was scary for me and the emotions I attached to that experience were "scared, embarrassed, nervous, anxious, and judged."
Fast forward 13 years (and 100s of IEP meetings, professional development trainings, and parent coaching sessions) and my body doesn't see public speaking as a threat anymore. Something to get ready to fight back against - or in my case - freeze up and forget what to say and do.
Your body is similar. Maybe not with public speaking. But your body is communicating something to you in your heartbeat, your breath, your skin temperature, your muscles, and so much more.
When we can sense those sensations - and get curious about why they are happening - we can respond to our BODY with tools that help it feel safer and more open.
Like for me? I sway side to side, close my eyes, breathe deeply and let it out with a sigh, swing my arms in front of me and crossing each other, and get a cold drink of water.
Over time, you'll find what works for you, and you can use that to be able to build your self-awareness of your body when it's under stress - before you become reactive or shut down.
Self-Awareness...It's Where It All Begins
If you're ready to grow into an emotionally intelligent parent who can help support your child in growing their emotional intelligence, click here to download the "How I Feel" Emotion Wheel or follow along on Instagram @growingupfamilies to learn more insights and strategies.