How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children

This is part 1 of a 3 part series about Emotional Intelligence in children. Part 1 focuses on laying the framework for your young child to develop their knowledge of feelings and facial expressions in an age-appropriate way.

emotional intelligence in children

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click one of the product links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Commonly referred to as EQ, Emotional Intelligence is calculated by one’s ability to identify and control one’s emotions, as well as determine how someone else is feeling and relate to others. People with with a high EQ can use emotion to communicate effectively and have successful relationships.

Why is EQ important?

The research has spoken: IQ is not the predictor for our children’s future success. What is? Emotional intelligence.

People with a high IQ are smart and capable, but people with a high EQ are relatable and likable. They are sensitive, and instinctively know what others’ want and need. They’re easy to engage with and remain calm under stress. Sound like someone who might do well in life?

Simply put, the higher one’s EQ, the healthier relationships they will have with others. Poor EQ is linked to being short-tempered, having poor social skills, and engaging in unethical behaviors.

Teaching Emotional Intelligence

Unlike IQ, EQ can absolutely be taught. In fact some schools have begun programs specifically aimed at raising social and emotional intelligence in their students. In a study of 379 of such programs, the following outcomes were found: fewer discipline problems and suspensions, reduction in bullying and antisocial behaviors, better school attendance, and higher academic achievement (

So now that we know what EQ is and why it matters, how can parents teach this set of skills to our children at home?

Part one is all about laying the foundation for being able to discuss feelings with your kids.

Teach them to name their feelings

This is child therapy 101. Kids can’t talk about their feelings if they don’t know what their feelings are called and what they look like.

During my time as a child therapist, I came across kid after kid who thought there were only two feelings: happy and sad. Every now and then I’d a get a kid who would include mad.

Don’t let that be your kid!

Give them the vocabulary for more complex emotions, including:

  • scared
  • jealous
  • frustrated
  • disappointed
  • surprised
  • guilty
  • worried
  • excited
  • irritable

How to build their feelings vocabulary

Teach these words the same way you build all language skills in your children: by infusing them into your daily conversation with your child.

You can do this by:

  • Reflect your child’s emotions back to them. “You look frustrated right now. I would feel frustrated too if my block tower kept falling over.”
  • Name your own feelings out loud to your child. “I’m feeling disappointed because it’s raining and they cancelled the baseball game.”
  • Talk about others’ emotions. “Your cousin seemed upset when it was time to leave the party. How do you feel when it’s time to leave a party?”

Identify feelings based on faces

Going hand in hand with knowing the names of feelings is recognizing what those feelings look like. A really easy game you can play with your child is to name an emotion and have them hold up a Hand Mirror and try to make the face that matches. Inevitably it will turn into giggles because it is pretty funny to see someone trying to look angry or sad when they really aren’t.

There are also some great books with pictures of faces that can help your child learn to interpret how others’ are feeling. Lots of Feelings is a good one for young kids because instead of cartoon drawings it has actual photographs of children’s faces.

You can also draw faces for your child and have them try to guess what feeling you intended to draw. If they guess incorrectly, try to guide them there by giving more detail about the feeling. For example, if you’re drawing “worried” and the child guesses “scared”, this is an opportunity to teach them the nuances between the two. “Yes, this person is feeling a little scared, but it’s more like they are nervous about something that may or may not happen and they can’t stop thinking about it for a long time.”

Another great staple to have on hand is a “How are you feeling today?” chart. Even if your child can’t come up with the correct word for their feeling, they can choose a match from the faces shown and just point to it.

emotional intelligence in children

If your kid loves emojis, those can work just as well too.

Naming emotions in the moment

It’s one thing to be able to recognize a feeling during a game or while reading a book, but it’s a lot more difficult to be able to recognize one’s emotions in the midst of it. Once you hear your child do this, you will know that the effort has paid off and your child is fully understanding the vocabulary. I still remember the first time that my son shouted mid-tantrum: “I AM REALLY FEELING VERY FRUSTRATED RIGHT NOW!” I did a little happy dance inside because I knew we had built the foundation for emotional intelligence and were on our way to expressing emotions in a healthier way than a tantrum.

Coming up:

Now that you’ve laid the framework for your child’s emotional intelligence by teaching them to name and recognize feelings, it is time to teach them healthy ways to express their feelings. (This will be Part 2 in my series, coming soon!) Lastly, you will help your child learn how to apply their knowledge to others and develop empathy.


Mom Talk Monday: Who Gives the Gifts?

I came across a post that was going around Facebook that had stirred up some controversy. The topic was Christmas morning and who gives the gifts. It said something along the lines of:

“Parents: when you give your kids Christmas gifts, you should make small things from Santa and have the bigger gifts from Mom and Dad. That way, kids whose parents can’t afford big gifts won’t think that Santa only brought them small things because they are bad kids.”

Personally, this is how I already do Christmas gifts although I hadn’t thought about it from that angle before. In our house the small gifts are from Santa because that’s what fits in the stocking. All the gifts under the tree are from Mom and Dad. I won’t lie, I do enjoy the glory of being the one to give the best gifts on Christmas morning. I know other families have ALL the presents from Santa, while others don’t do Santa gifts at all.

That Facebook post did tug on my heart strings a bit. It made me question if I would change our Christmas tradition if we had previously done big gifts from Santa. To be honest I’m not sure.

I would enjoy hearing everyone’s thoughts on it, and how your family does the gift giving.

So, my Mom Talk Monday question is:

who gives the gifts

Is there any particular reason for how you do your gift giving? Would you do it differently if your child had peers who won’t receive the same type of gifts from Santa? Let’s get the conversation started!

How to Celebrate Your Christmas Baby’s Birthday

Long story short: two of my children are what I consider “Christmas babies”. My son’s birthday is within days of Christmas so he was my original Christmas baby. Three years later, I went into labor with Elle on Christmas Eve. All I could think was, get this baby out before midnight so she doesn’t end up with the worst birthday of the year! She ended up being born at 2am on Christmas Day. Aka the worst birthday of the year.

So now I have TWO Christmas babies.

Over the years I’ve learned a thing or two about how to manage these unfortunately timed birthdays.

how to celebrate your Christmas baby's birthday

Your Christmas Baby’s Birthday: DON’TS

  1. Don’t let your child hear you complain about their birthday. It’s been 8 years for my son and 5 years for my daughter, and they are still completely unaware that their dates of birth are the worst. I have successfully brainwashed them into thinking a Christmas birthday is extra special and fun. You can complain to your mom friends about how horrible their birthdays are, but never in the presence of the kids.
  2. Don’t let their birthday party be an afterthought. December is so busy and stressful, I can relate to the temptation to just put off having their party until January. But think about the days leading up to your birthday as a kid. It’s basically as torturous as the end of pregnancy. Don’t make them wait extra long! I always err on the side of doing it early, because no kid ever minds getting presents early. Also, it does feel special to get presents before Christmas. After all the holiday hoopla, having a birthday party in early January is going to feel anti-climactic.
  3. Don’t make their birthday Christmas-themed! The whole month of the December is Christmas-themed. Let their birthday be a birthday! That means no Christmas wrapping paper, no Christmas party decorations, etc. If your kid is into trains or ponies let them have a train or pony party like all the kids who were born in the other 11 months of the year.
Christmas birthday
The two on the right are the Christmas babies, but their party themes include rainbows and the Wiggles

Your Christmas Baby’s Birthday: DOS

  1. Do talk to family members about keeping the birthday separate from Christmas. Of course it’s always up to the giver what type of gift they want to give, but some relatives might need subtle hints about how Christmas babies truly appreciate not having their Christmas and birthday gifts meshed into one (or skipped altogether).
  2. Do keep it small and manageable if you have to. Only bite off as much as you can chew when it comes to throwing a party. The last thing any kid wants for his birthday is to see Mommy have a stress-induced meltdown. Remember it doesn’t need to be huge (or Pinterest-inspired) to make your child feel special and loved.
  3. Do carve out some special time for the birthday child. A one on one lunch date with Mom or Dad doesn’t take much time out of your busy day but it will make a big impact. When my son’s birthday falls on a school day, I join him for lunch in the school cafeteria. It’s 30 minutes out of my day and he feels like a superstar on his birthday. If your school doesn’t allow lunch visits, ask if you can come in as a mystery reader and read a book to the class. Other simple ways to squeeze in some special time could be a family game night, movie night or just letting your child stay up past bedtime hanging out with Mom and Dad.

A Note About “Half Birthdays”

People have suggested to us that we shift our kids’ birthdays away from the holidays by celebrating their half birthdays in the summertime instead. While this seems to work well for some families, I’ve always felt like the day when their age changes is a big deal for kids and needs to be acknowledged. I have a hard time getting on board with just saying “yesterday you were four, today you are five and we will celebrate that in six months.” That said, my children’s opinions are the ones that really matter so if they ever decide they want to move to half birthdays, I would follow their lead.

If your child is a Christmas baby (or if you yourself are!) I’d love to hear from you!

What are the biggest challenges of birthdays during the holiday season? What have you tried that works for your family?

Introducing Mom Talk Mondays!

I’ve been thinking about starting a regular weekly post about here on the blog for a while now, but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I wanted it to be about. So I went back to some old posts to read what people had written in the comments to see if that would spark any ideas. Well it didn’t give me any topic ideas, but it did make me super happy. That’s because I absolutely love it when people leave comments! It honestly makes my day. Nobody wants their blog to be just a girl with a laptop talking to herself! (Well maybe some people do. But not me.)

I love getting comments because it feels like I’m talking to other Moms.

Sadly, some days the only adult conversation I get is with my husband after the kids are in bed. It can be lonely being a Mom. And I’m sure there are other Moms out there who feel like this.

All that to say… Mondays are now going to be all about Mom Talk. Different topics each week. Just Moms talking. (Wow am I a simple girl or what?)

This Monday’s question is How have the holidays changed for you since you became a Mom?

mom talk holidays

Leave a comment and let’s get talking!

Planning Your First Disney Cruise

The big buzz in our Disney-crazed family lately is, we have booked our first Disney cruise! In the spring we will be boarding the Disney Magic for a 5-night Caribbean cruise, and our excitement is through roof! Since I’m all about everything Disney cruise right now, I thought I’d write a quick guide for planning your first Disney cruise.

planning your first disney cruise

Why a cruise?

We absolutely love our Walt Disney World vacations, and I’ve written about planning them before. As much fun as Disney World is, it isn’t a relaxing vacation by any stretch of the imagination. There are fast passes and reservations, tight timelines, touring plans, and miles and miles of walking the parks each day. A Disney cruise offers that same magical feel but with a slower, more relaxed pace. And of course, they still cater to kids!

What makes Disney Cruise Line unique

My kids and I love Disney, so choosing Disney cruise line was a no brainer for us. Being able to meet characters, see Disney-themed shows, and fireworks at sea were big draws for us. But the number one factor was the amazing kids clubs they have on board, included in your fare for kids ages 3 and up.

Elaborately themed spaces include Tinkerbelle’s Pixie Hollow, Toy Story’s Andys’ room, and Marvel’s Avenger Academy. The kids clubs offer activities like cooking classes, animation classes, arts and crafts, dress up, games, electronics and more. My children can’t wait to experience the kids clubs for as much time as they want to during our cruise, and my husband and I are thrilled to get a little adult time on the ship.

Zari can’t wait to find his superhero powers with Captain America! Photo credit: Disney Parks

For little ones under 3, there is the It’s A Small World Nursery, where you can leave your baby at pre-arranged times for an hourly fee ($9/hour at the time I’m writing this!).

Choosing which cruise

When trying to choose which cruise to book, you will likely spend a lot of time searching the different itineraries on Search by date, length of the cruise, port, or destination depending on what your constraints are. You can even narrow it down by which of the four ships you prefer. Then browse the search results and compare prices. The common advice is to book as far in advance as possible, because the price will only go up. The exception to this is that they sometimes have last-minute sales a few weeks in advance of a cruise to fill up any empty rooms, but it’s a gamble and you can’t count on this.

Our search took us right to a Caribbean cruise because it is super convenient for us to fly to Florida, which left Port Canaveral or Miami as our possible ports of departure. From there, I narrowed it down to spring time which is when we wanted to travel. My only other “must” was that it HAD to include a stop at Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) which is the kind of paradise dreams are made of.

planning your first disney cruise

Family size considerations

An important note for families with more than 2 kids- you will likely need to book two rooms to take your whole family on a cruise. The majority of rooms are only fit 4 people. (And unlike Disney resort hotels, 4 people does NOT mean 4 people plus a baby in a pack n play on Disney Cruise Line.) There are some suites that can hold more, but those get booked quickly and are very expensive. It usually works out to be more cost effective to book two rooms. You can request that they be adjoining, so there is a door to go between the two rooms without having to go into the hall.

Building excitement for the cruise

Just like I’ve done with Disney World attractions, I love to show my kids video clips of Disney cruises so they’ll know what to expect when they’re on board. These also get them SO excited to go! My kids love watching cruise videos that show other kids that they can follow along with and get to know. For example they love watching Jones Family Travels:

During the holidays/birthdays leading up to the trip, I also love to give gifts related to the trip. Disney shirts, autograph books, costumes, and travel toys are all useful gifts to get them ready for the cruise. My kids are also getting their own piece of rolling luggage so they can help haul all our stuff during the journey.

What we are looking forward to most

After all this research, planning, and YouTube watching, here is what we are the most excited about!


  • Kids clubs (all)
  • Meeting Anna and Elsa and the other princesses (Elle)
  • Disney Junior dance party (Luca)
  • Eating soft serve ice cream by the pool without having to pay and ordering room service without having to pay (Tiana)
  • Water slides (Zari)


  • Brunch or dinner at the adults-only restaurant Palo (the main dining rooms are all included in the price of the cruise, but this one does have a $30 per person upcharge. Well worth it based on the amazing reviews I’ve read and the fact that there won’t be any kids present!)
  • Enjoying the adults-only areas of the ship when the kids are at kids clubs (noticing a trend here?)
  • Mailing a letter from Castaway Cay
  • Surprising my girls with makeovers from Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
  • The night time shows and entertainment
  • Getting the whole family dressed up for Pirate Night and watching the fireworks at sea
  • Port excursions! Haven’t even delved into these much yet but I’m excited about the possibilities
  • Enjoying a week of family time that can be as busy or as relaxed as we want

You can bet you’ll be hearing more about Disney Cruises as our date approaches!

For those who have been on one before, what advice would you give about planning your first Disney cruise?

If you haven’t been, what else would you like to know about Disney cruise planning?

Answer in the comments!