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October 18, 2023

Here’s an easy way to boost your child’s emotional intelligence (EQ): teach them about the loss-sadness connection. 

It’s built-in to our human operating system — our brain chemistry — that with every significant loss comes sadness. That particular sadness is called grief. With every loss, grief arrives in the form of an ounce, a gallon or a bucket of sadness. Sometimes it brings tears. Our children should know how normal and healthy it is when the tears of loss are allowed to flow.  

Loss may be the very first emotion that newborns experience when they lose the warmth and security of the womb. And after birth, the losses just keep on coming, big and small — all through the lifespan. Even those parents most devoted to shielding their children from pain cannot prevent inevitable losses. 

Emotional intelligence includes being able to accurately name what we feel. Better still is being able to identify the source of the feeling. What an empowered moment of self-understanding when our kids, feeling sad, can recall and reflect on the lesson you taught them about the loss-sadness connection. With that understanding, they’re better positioned to make sense of their experience, of why they feel the way they do. Now they know they’re having a normal and healthy reaction, not something mystifying or wrong.  

Childhood losses can include the death of a goldfish, the failure to make the team, the relocation of a good friend to another city, the theft of a bicycle, the broken arm that resulted in wearing a cast and forgoing tennis for six weeks. Help your kids understand the loss-sadness connection by offering examples of loss from your own life, especially from your childhood. Teach them that the sadness of grief runs its course when given breathing room to be felt — not to be pushed away — and accepted for what it is: a natural human response.