Emotional intelligence (EI) allows kids to act on feelings in an effective way. This key ability can help kids who learn and think differently work through their challenges. Learn ways to help your child build EI.
1. Help your child be aware of emotions.
Encourage your child to talk about the feelings that come with challenges like these. Have your child name the emotion (“angry,” “sad,” “jealous”). Then ask, “Why do you feel this way?”
You can do the same when your child has a positive experience. If your child remembers to hand every homework assignment one week, for example, ask, “How does this make you feel? Why?”
2. Practice reading emotions in others.
Watching TV can be a great way to practice this. Turn off the sound and, with your child, try to guess how characters are feeling. Talk about how body language and facial expressions can be clues.
3. Reflect on how your child has reacted in the past.
Take time to look back at specific situations and talk about how your child has responded. Offer helpful praise if your child reacted in a constructive way. For example, maybe your child was feeling frustrated with math homework and asked you for help. If you got a not-so-helpful reaction—like your child throwing the math book on the floor—talk about what other reactions might have been possible.
4. Come up with new strategies.
Use tough situations as learning opportunities. Talk about what your child can do when she’s feeling a certain way or facing a challenge. For example, instead of yelling at a sibling, what could your child do when someone else in the house plays music too loud?
5. Find ways to help others.
Working together to take care of people can help your child build empathy. Join a volunteer effort. Or have your child come with you to deliver a care package to a sick relative or friend.
You could even consider getting a pet. Having to walk a dog on cold or rainy days can help serve as a reminder to your child that their needs may not always come first.
6. Explore options at school and elsewhere.
There may be a school program that could help your child build emotional skills. Find out if they have a social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. Or maybe they have a “lunch buddy” program your child could join.
You could also look into the option of getting outside emotional help. Going to therapy can help kids learn how to identify—and regulate—their emotions. Some therapists also offer social skills groups.
Tell us what interests you
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Donna Volpitta, EdD is the founder of Pathways to Empower. Her work draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and education.