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I love when school’s out, especially for the break we get from our day-to-day schedules that allows us to commit to quality time with each other.
School breaks are the perfect time for conversations and connections with your daughter—a time to focus on self-care, and with a little distance from school, talk about some emotions and obstacles that may have bubbled up at school and have a fresh perspective to build some strategies to tackle them.
With no nightly homework and time off from some extracurricular activities, there’s a window to focus on a different kind of learning—building your daughter’s emotional intelligence.
The definition Psychology Today offers for emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.”
Off the textbooks and in real life, having a high EQ is all about the ability to be aware that emotions can drive our behavior and that our emotions can impact others positively and negatively. It’s also about how we manage emotions when under pressure—ours and others we interact with.
Many believe it’s more important than your child’s IQ—intelligence quotient—as a predictor of future success.
One of the first people to raise awareness of EQ, psychologist Daniel Goleman figures IQ is only about 20% of what determines life success, while it’s the other factors including EQ that are responsible for our success.
Kids are incredibly self-aware even though as adults we often try to shield them from talking about tricky subjects. Alongside teaching our girls math and spelling, it’s crucial that we help them cultivate an understanding about emotions.
Having a strong EQ is directly related to having a better quality of life and predicts more than 54% of the variation in successful relationships, health and quality of life. Other research shows that children with high EQ make healthier choices, stay in school and earn higher grades.
With all these statistics, it often baffles me that we don’t give as much attention to this kind of learning as we do to academics!
1. Teach the value of giving back
It’s always the right time of year to have your daughter go through her things to find toys and clothes that she can donate to someone less fortunate. There are likely lots of opportunities for your family to volunteer at nursing homes or shelters in your community. You could also develop a random act of kindness project with your daughter that she can implement when school is back in session.
For example, writing handmade cards with positive affirmations on them, like “You’re awesome”, is a simple activity that creates big impact.
2. Experience empathy
Learning to imagine what it feels like to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is what empathy is all about. The easiest way to help your daughter become curious about how other people view the world is to step in the heads of characters from movies or books. Ask your daughter why she thought a character acted in a certain way or what they might be feeling. (One of my favorites to do this with is Moana).
3. Big picture thinking
The sooner girls understand there are peaks and valleys in life that we all experience, the more resilient they will become in response to the pitfalls of growing up. Maybe they didn’t get the invitation they coveted to someone’s birthday party or wasn’t invited to join their first choice of team.
Although disappointments feel enormous at the time you experience them, encourage your daughter to look at the big picture. Will this matter a year from now? Probably not. To help your daughter move past difficult feelings that feel huge in the moment, starting a gratitude practice can be a really good strategy.
4. Mistakes are natural, frustration happens
Allow your daughter wiggle room to make mistakes. There are consequences—sometimes good, sometimes bad—for decisions and actions she takes.
This allows her to learn cause and effect which is helpful to build emotional intelligence. Similarly, when your daughter is faced with a frustrating situation and you let her experience it (even though it’s so hard not to step in!), it’s a good lesson about how the real world works. Part of having a high EQ is knowing you can’t always get what you want and need to learn to manage the feelings that brings up.
5. Connections and conversations
Many of the strategies to build emotional intelligence involve sharing stories and having conversations with your daughter. When you’re able to share examples from your own life about how you overcame a disappointing or difficult situation, she can learn new strategies.
To help moms and daughters connect, I developed a Conversation Game for Tween Girls. It’s a great game to spark discussion and really get to know your daughter in a deeper way. The game has 70 questions across seven themes—from Home and Family Life to Imagination and Dreams. Playing this game with your daughter gives you the opportunity to share your parenting wisdom in a comfortable way that even the most discerning of tweens will enjoy.
If you’re looking for some ideas of what to do with your daughter over break that are fun for her at the same time as building emotional intelligence, check out the list of 108 Ways to Balance your Emotions, Build your Happiness and Be Your Best, True Self.
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What ideas will you implement during the next school break?