Willow Magazine CREATING LIFE - Page 13

language. Fundamentally, emotional intelligence is something we continue to develop (hopefully) for the rest of our lives. We never completely master emotional intelligence. It’s the art of knowing what we’re feeling and the balancing act of expressing and letting go of control just enough that we become transparent to others and are able to talk about our emotions.

To a lot of people it comes as a surprise to realise that we don’t often consciously know what we feel all the time. Nor do we really know what we want. For babies this comes automatically, they don’t translate their feelings or needs into our spoken language. It’s immediate.

Does that mean acknowledging our babies feelings and letting them express their feelings teaches them emotional intelligence?

Yes, not getting in the way of that and also showing them that there is a response: that way, the connection to their feelings doesn’t get suppressed and interrupted. At the beginning, it’s not so much about teaching but responding and helping them to feel safe. Once the children have language, the best way to teach them is by role modelling. A considerable amount of our children's emotional intelligence comes from ours and how we role model it.

When their language comes in, they can learn how to express feelings. Invite your kids to speak about what’s going on for them in their body. What does it feel like rather than interpreting what they may feel like. The words that we have for feelings are just that - words. Feelings are often better spoken in metaphors or in color. We don't necessarily speak of feeling as sad, angry or happy. The words rarely explain what’s actually happening in the body. You can invite your children to actually tell you what it feels like in their belly, or if they feel like they have a cloud over their head etc... That makes feeling real. Really welcome their answers too. One thing we have to be really careful about is giving them our words. If you say 'you look sad' you can add 'is that true for you? This gives them the freedom of rejecting the wording.

Often we say how we feel but really deep down we might feel other feelings. Sometimes we don’t know that about ourself or see it, but other people do. All this is part of emotional intelligence and it’s something we can cultivate our whole life.

That’s the speaking part but there is also a listening part. Knowing how to pay attention in such a way that we can feel a little bit of what the other person is feeling. Looking into their eyes, body language, skin tone all of that is speaking emotion all the time. How to become sensitised to that without becoming overwhelmed to other people's feelings, that’s an art form too; the listening half.

Emotional intelligence is a body of art and skill.

Parenting isn’t about what we do for our children but how we live around our children.

The onus is on us to continuously develop our emotional intelligences and connect to our vulnerability. Being intentionally appropriate on how we express our emotions to our kids and in how we express in front of them. Something to be aware of here though is in the desire to be congruent; we need to watch out to not overwhelm them with our emotions. We don’t need to let out 240% of our rage or anger to be congruent as that can scare or even traumatise our kids. It’s about showing just enough and being in balance. I call that containment. Showing just enough of that feeling that we are real but not so much that we terrify or burden our children. This also applies to our partners and friends too.

Mama Sandra:

If we want to get a deeper understanding of children's development we need to understand how the brain works and develops from a very young age. Can you tell us a bit more about the development of the brain from a newborn to a toddler. What kind of neurodevelopment does a child go through in their first years of life?

Robin Grille:

It’s really important to say here that neurodevelopment does not start with a newborn.

Life does not start at birth.

Brain development starts very early and until the 3rd birthday it grows faster than it will ever grow. It increases from about 25% brainmass at birth to 90% brainmass by the time we are 3 years old. Because the brain grows so fast it doesn’t grow according to a formula. The brain takes notes from the environment, according to what the environment says. Our brain grows and prepares us to the world we seem to live in. It’s very smart that way. If it’s a scary world the brain need to be wired to prepare for flight and fight.

If it’s a safe world the brain needs to be wired for trust and reach out. In the first three years of our life the brain changes rapidly, more than it ever does. It’s not impossible to change at a later point in life but this is the time of the deepest and most accelerated changes.

Mama Sandra:

Does that mean the first 3 years of our children's lives are the most important in terms of brain development?

Robin Grille:

Yes, 3 years and 9 months! There is a lot of research around for in utero brain development. One thing that we know is that the parts of the brain that organise emotional memory are fully mature by the time we are born. Our bodies can recall emotional memory from before birth. You can be 50 years old and be triggered into emotions that you were feeling when you were 8 months in the womb. Consciousness is well developed by the third trimester. Not so much a self

It’s the art of knowing what we’re feeling; the balancing act of expressing and letting go of control just enough that we become transparent to others and are able to talk about our emotions.

IMAGE CREDIT: Ingrid Pullen