Thoughtful Parenting: Using media to grow EQ |

Thoughtful Parenting: Using media to grow EQ

Barbara Gueldner
Steamboat Pilot & Today

The variety of media available to children today is astounding. We are told to limit the amount of time spent with video-based media, avoid viewing before bedtime and to supervise content — all excellent advice. At the same time, we can use media wisely to cultivate our child’s emotional intelligence. Picture books, chapter books, TV shows and movies can be used as teaching and learning tools to build emotional intelligence.

Getting started is pretty straightforward. As you read and watch developmentally appropriate media with your child, look and listen for context clues in storylines. Illustrations, words and our imaginations give us ideas for how a character is feeling and what they are thinking.

Next, think about your child’s developmental level and what you want to highlight. Toddlers are learning emotion words and actions. Preschoolers and young school-age children are doing the same, plus learning about more complex emotions and social situations.

Finally, initiate a conversation by making comments about the character’s emotions, ask a few questions and, above all, listen to your child’s responses. This process can be brief. If your child does not seem interested, try again tomorrow.

The following are some additional tips and phrasing to try.

With very young children, name emotions you see in illustrations and videos.

Show your child how you express the emotion via facial expressions and tone of voice, and ask them to do the same.

Play “I spy:” “I spy/see/hear a picture/word/phrase that gives us clues about how the boy is feeling and what he is thinking.” Give your child an example of what you see, hear or guess. Then ask, “What do you spy?”

Give a definition of the emotion and a practical example: “Worried means you might feel a little scared about a new activity and think about it a little more, like when you first started swimming.”

Ask, “Have you ever been in that situation or felt that feeling?”

“Tell me more about ways you might feel and think differently than the character.”

“If you had different feelings or thoughts than the character, how would you communicate these in a way that respects another person’s feelings?”

With practice, it gets easier and more natural to use these strategies. Together, you and your child are building important skills and your relationship. A publication by Gallingane & Han, available at, has additional, practical tips.

Barbara Gueldner, PhD, NCSP is a psychologist specializing in social and emotional learning in children. Find her at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User