Cultivate your children’s emotional intelligence.
When children are able to comprehend their own emotions and find positive ways to manage them, they are able to overcome stressful and challenging situations. This doesn’t happen overnight. We need to help them understand other people’s emotions. We need to model how to empathize with others. Research indicates that the ability to empathize and communicate with others can make a big difference in the quality of one’s life.
Children who experience anxiety may have difficulty understanding other people’s feelings because they are too busy trying to figure out their own. However, it is possible to help them develop empathy and manage their own emotions.
Parents can teach communication skills to their children. They can set the example by talking about their own feelings. They can teach them it’s okay to feel sad, mad, or scared.
It’s important to help children recognize their thoughts. I often meet adolescents, young adults, and even adults who have difficulty recognizing their thoughts and expressing them. Encourage your children to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, and to see how these affect their behavior.
Don’t tell them how to feel.
Quite often we say things like, “Isn’t this fun?” “Aren’t you excited about this?” What if they are not excited or having fun? You can express how you feel and ask them how they might be feeling. Ask them genuine questions to help them develop their own opinions and not to be afraid of stating them.
Build up their confidence.
Help your children recognize their strengths. Acknowledge their weaknesses and point out that everyone has weaknesses and that it’s okay. Help them understand that we learn from our mistakes. They need to understand that you love them and accept them for who they are, not for what they do and accomplish.
Children who develop confidence in themselves accept who they are, and recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes children who experience anxiety can be quick in accepting defeat and get into a helpless mode. Frequently parents will be harsh and scold them and order them “to try, or else!” This parental attitude will exacerbate their child’s anxiety. On the other hand, some parents feel guilt and are sad about their child’s fears. They tend to quickly rescue them and inadvertently reinforce their child’s sense of helplessness.
When your children experience anxiety and you push them, they will clam up and your strategy will backfire.
Additional tips to help your children build confidence:
- Shape their behavior, one step at a time.
- Help them find appropriate ways to soothe themselves.
- Allow for them to find their talents and develop them. They don’t have to do what siblings are doing. If their interests are completely different from what the family culture is, help them cultivate their interests and support them. Remember each of your children is unique and they need to find their own niche.
- Don’t compare your children with others, and help them so they won’t do it either.
- Expose them to different activities and social situations. Let them acclimate themselves.
- Be patient. They need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. They won’t learn anything if you force or rescue them. Take small steps towards the desired goal but don’t rush the process.
- Teach your children to look people in the eye. When they are young, start by telling them to look at the person’s eyes and tell you what color they are. Looking for the other person’s eye color will shape their behavior and get them used to looking at people’s eyes.
- Teach them the confidence stance: head up, shoulders back, walk tall. Shy and anxious children often slouch, and bullies can spot them a mile away. Play games to teach your children the confidence stance.
- Role-play scenarios that will help your children respond in confidence. Teach them to say no if they don’t feel comfortable doing something others may be asking them to do.
- Teach them about guilt and what its purpose is. Many individuals sometimes feel guilty when they fear offending a person or losing a friend.
No matter what your child’s personality is, with teaching, practice, patience, and time they can become assertive and stronger. Just remember, the road to parenting success is always under construction.