Raising an emotionally intelligent child

mother and son chatting

Adolescence can be a difficult time. It’s not just hormones, moodiness or ‘a phase they’re going through’, it’s a very real time of brain development and hormonal changes that affect your child’s development. This causes them to behave in ways that you might find challenging as a parent, but keep in mind that they are finding it all equally as baffling. Helping them understand how to express their emotions and thoughts at this time is important. Emotional intelligence for teens can help them function well and thrive socially and at home. Learn more about the emotional changes your child may go through during puberty.

Helping your child develop emotional intelligence can help them manage their emotions more effectively. You can try the following tips:

Being self-aware and labelling emotions

Help your child recognise and label their feelings and emotions. Focus on what causes them and why they react in the way that they do. You can do this by noticing when positive or negative emotions arise, and saying things such as:

  • ‘When you’re tired/hungry/stressed you seem to get angry.’

  • ‘When you paint/dance/listen to music you seem really happy and relaxed.’

  • ‘When you don’t do well at school/sport you get frustrated and want to give up.’

Managing emotions effectively

When your child recognises the emotion they are feeling and how they respond to it - especially if it’s a difficult emotion such as anger, frustration, and irritability - you need to support them. You can suggest how to deal with it in a more positive way. Ask questions and help them come up with solutions. Try saying things like:

  • 'I can see you’re frustrated/upset with your exam results. Why do you feel that way? Is there anything you could do to be more prepared next time?’.

  • ‘I can see you’re tired/upset/stressed as a result of X. What do you think you feel that way and what could you do differently next time to avoid those feeling’.

Self-determination and mastery

Self-determination is described as thinking for oneself and taking action that is consistent with that thought. Young people who are self-determined tend to be:

  • autonomous

  • independent thinking

  • self-advocates

  • empowered

  • able to live according to their values and standards.

Help your child with this by developing their self-confidence and helping them recognise that they can achieve their goals through hard work and effort. It takes time and practice to become good at things. Encourage them to dedicate the time they need to learn how to do well. No one just picks up a ball and becomes a basketball champion; no one is born to know how to be a scientist. We all need to learn skills and knowledge, and those with the greatest self determination will keep trying and learning from their failures.


Learning about why others behave the way they do requires self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Understanding that we can’t control how others behave but being able to see things from their perspective helps us to empathise with them.

You need to talk to your child about this to help them understand. An example of what you could say is:

‘I know you’re upset because your friend was mean to you but they might have just been having a bad day. Perhaps, rather than getting mad at them, you can ask if there’s something you can do to help.’

This will help your child to show their friend that they care and have compassion, and it will also teach them how to resolve conflicts effectively.

Getting along with others

Friends and family are essential in feeling a sense of belonging. Being able to manage relationships in the good times and when they are tested is a good skill for everyone throughout our lives.

Valuing good friendships and relationships by learning how to resolve differing opinions and occasional thoughtlessness is essential.

Teaching emotional intelligence to teenagers is vital to build resilience and ensure their prepared for building relationships in the future.