What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Is It so Important?

What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Is It so Important?

What is emotional Intelligence?

When we think about children going to school to get an education, thoughts of academic rigor usually appear at the forefront. However, the emotional wellness of a child should not be undervalued and is something that all school districts need to include as part of their school mission statements. No child should ever come to school in distress or fear of being around their peers.

This past October, I did an activity with my middle school students that honored “Unity Day.” In the United States, this day was started in 2011 by Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center as an opportunity to promote kindness, empathy, and inclusion among students across the nation. My students took the activity seriously and did a fantastic job coming together to express their thoughts on how to make others feel included. They offered solutions on what needs to be done to build an empathetic community which supports one another.

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Marc Brackett, the director at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the author of Permission to Feel to get his thoughts on the topic of “emotional intelligence.”

What is emotional intelligence and why is it so important for children to strengthen this type of intelligence?

Dr. Brackett mentions: “Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize our own emotions and those of others, not just in the things we think, feel, and say, but also in our facial expressions, body language, vocal tones, and other nonverbal signals.” For instance, if someone uses the phrase “Is that so?” Depending on the intonation and the context that question is being used, it can serve to have multiple meanings, which can provoke specific reactions.

There is a correlation between emotional intelligence and overall success and happiness. Research shows that children with higher emotional intelligence tend to have less anxiety and depression and experience a greater overall well-being. They also achieve higher academically and have better quality relationships with their peers.

How can we help foster emotional intelligence in our children?

  • First and foremost, parents, educators, and any adults working with children should set good examples of effective communication, kindness, acceptance, and understanding toward all people.
  • Model effective emotion regulation strategies. By finding practical strategies for dealing with what we and others feel, we will be better able to regulate our emotions, rather than let them regulate us.

For example, when I want to feel more positive emotion, I immediately change what I am thinking, which changes my state of being. When I feel more anxious, I look at a fixed object, take slow, relaxed deep breaths to regain a sense of being more mindful in the moment. Often children with learning differences feel different in some way and may become alienated. Thus, it’s even more important to check in with them and support them in learning how to manage their emotions effectively.

To support the health of kids, stop focusing on their weight

To support the health of kids, stop focusing on their weight

Since the pandemic started, people of all ages have gained weight. At the same time, the rate at which youth and young adults are seeking treatment for eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder, has increased.

While the reasons for these changes are complex, pandemic-related stress and weight bias — the belief that a thin body is good and healthy, while a large body is bad and unhealthy — are prominent contributors.

As researchers who study health behaviors and are also parents of young children, we often see health research and health initiatives that place a disproportionate emphasis on weight.

That’s a problem for two big reasons.

First, it draws attention away from better predictors of chronic disease and strategies to address these factors. Although a high body mass index, or BMI, is one risk factor for various chronic diseases, it is only one of many, and far from the strongest. And while moderate weight loss does reduce chronic disease risk for some people, about 80 percent of individuals who manage to lose weight regain it. The other 20 percent describe their ongoing efforts to maintain their weight loss as stressful and exhausting.

Second, disproportionate emphasis on weight reinforces weight bias. Weight bias, in turn, contributes to weight-related discrimination, like bullying and teasing, which is common among youth. Across diverse samples surveyed, 25 percent to 50 percent of children and adolescents report being teased or bullied about their body size, and these experiences are linked to disordered eating and depression, as well as poorer academic performance and health.

To best support the physical and emotional health of children during this pandemic, we suggest reducing the emphasis on body size. Below are some specific tips for parents, teachers and medical providers.

1. Stop using the words ‘fat,’ ‘obese’ and ‘overweight’

When asked, children and adults with larger bodies consistently indicate that these are the least preferred and most stigmatizing terms to talk about body size, while “weight” and “body mass” are the most preferred.

So, consider modeling less stigmatizing language. For example, if your teen refers to her friend as “overweight,” respond by saying, “Yes, your friend does have a larger body.” Likewise, if your doctor refers to your child as “obese,” ask them to share their “body mass index percentile” instead. Or, better yet, ask them not to talk about weight at all, which leads us to our next recommendation.

2. Focus on health behaviors

Physical activity, eating habits and emotional support from friends and family are stronger predictors of disease and death than BMI, and all of these have been greatly affected by COVID-19.

Considering that behavioral weight loss programs are ineffective for the majority of people, we recommend focusing on behaviors that are more easily changed and have stronger influences on health and well-being. Regular physical activity, for example, improves mood and lowers risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, even in the absence of weight loss.

How to Teach Your Children Boundaries to Form Fulfilling Friendships

How to Teach Your Children Boundaries to Form Fulfilling Friendships

There are times when our children come home from school deflated because another kid left them feeling down. If this is occurring with some frequency, we may need to help our children set boundaries to develop fulfilling friendships.

A healthy relationship boundary is a firm, but flexible, spoken expectation you set with another person to clearly define what you find acceptable (or not) in their actions towards you or others. Boundaries provide clarity by erasing ambiguity, allowing you and the relationship to be authentic. By setting healthy boundaries, you construct the framework for a mutually enjoyable friendship, offering freedom to demonstrate love and respect for one another.

Here are three tools for teaching children to set boundaries.

FOSTER YOUR CHILD’S SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL ABILITIES

Setting a boundary begins with your child’s awareness of their feelings, and the ability to describe their feelings and express what they need. To do this you can play games that explore feelings. My favorites are Bright Spots Therapeutic Fun games.

Try validating your child’s experiences. For example, at a family party, you notice that your child doesn’t want to hug a specific auntie. You could reflect with them, “When your aunt asked for a hug, I saw that you turned your body away from her and you looked downwards. It looked like you felt unsure or uncomfortable. I want you to know that I am proud of you for listening to your feelings. You do not have to hug anyone that you do not want to. In the future, you could use your words to say ‘No, thank you’ to be even more clear.”

GET SPECIFIC ABOUT HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

Explain to your child what a good friend says, how they act, what they do, and how your child will likely feel when they are with such a friend.

For example, “A good friend says things like, ‘Let’s play’ or ‘I like you’ and they share, take turns, and use their words to solve problems. When you spend time with a nice friend, you feel happy and loved.”

It’s important that our kiddos know that words and actions should be aligned. MODEL BOUNDARY-SETTING Our kids are always watching how we act and handle challenges, and by modeling boundaries, our children will more deeply understand their power.Setting healthy boundaries can feel challenging to do, especially at first and if you aren’t used to speaking up for yourself. The same will be true for your children, but they have you to cheer them on and to support their growth. Christina Furnival a licensed psychotherapist and author of the Capable Kiddo series. Check […]

Eating fruit and veg associated with children's mental well-being

Eating fruit and veg associated with children’s mental well-being

  • Multiple factors influence mental well-being, including nutrition.
  • A recent study found that eating more fruits and vegetables was linked to better mental well-being among children.
  • On the other hand, children who skipped meals were more likely to have lower well-being scores.

Although well-being among adults and children is similar, it is not exactly the same for both groups. Children are still growing, and multiple factors need to be taken into account when evaluating children’s health.

One area of interest is the association between nutrition and children’s mental well-being. A new study, which appears in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, suggests that children who eat more fruits and vegetables are more likely to have a better sense of mental well-being than those who eat less.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the following definition of what it means for children to be mentally healthy:

“Being mentally healthy during childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. Mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.”

Psychologist and well-being consultant Lee Chambers further explained the impact of children’s mental well-being to Medical News Today:

“Mental well-being in children plays a vital role in more than their health outcomes. Positive mental well-being is influenced by a variety of factors, and, in turn, impacts a range of outcomes, from education to health [and from] friendships to decision making.”

Chambers continues, “It also provides the platform to develop resilience, cope with stressors, and become rounded and healthy adults. It is also pivotal in their ability to be safe and for healthy relationships.”

“In an increasingly dynamic and uncertain world, mental well-being provides the foundations for children to build upon, to explore and learn, to play and have fun, and to navigate the challenges and adversity that come with being human.”

Five essentials to meaningful play for kids

Five essentials to meaningful play for kids

Childhood is that stage of life when the brain is still developing and trying to make sense of the surrounding world. In fact, the age span of 0-5 years is said to be most vital in terms of brain development, absorbing information, learning new abilities, discovering more of life’s offerings, understanding relationships and the numerous social systems making up human communities.

Before a child begins schooling, the learning is more through observation and self discovery. The medium for self learning is play. Toys, objects, body movements, rhythms, all contribute to cognitive enhancement of a child. Here, it is important that guardians create an enabling environment for the tiny tots to engage in play which is constructive and adds value to their growth trajectory. This may be something as small but as crucial as gifting a construction block set or crossword, jigsaw puzzle or clay set to allow the child to go wild in the exploration.

In the technological age, childhood learning too has shifted to the digital medium. But this must be regulated and restricted. Of course, early learning and play apps are more than facilitators of cognitive function for toddlers but any divergence from the app may prove to be not so conducive.

Childhood is a very special and meaningful phase of life for almost every individual. That is because the memories of learning through action and knowledge through wild play make this phase an unforgettable and cherishable one. Everyone loves playing with children, deriving joy in giving joy, engaging in a form of bonding unmatched in later stages of life. It is important that the pleasure and pampering parents received in their time as children is given back to their kids.

Let us enumerate such imperatives for catalyzing an environment of meaningful play for the young generation.

A safe, creative environment

We ought to give children a safe play environment and let them play by themselves. Distant supervision allows security of the wards while enabling them to improve decision making, understand consequences of actions and relish freedom of individuality. To inspire independent thinking, it is also a great idea to provide foam pieces, little wooden sticks, ribbon scraps, and other reusable resources for play time. Open-ended materials instill creative thinking and delight children to create pieces never thought of.

Discovering interests

It is surprising but true that the innate tendency and inclination to play in the early years is in large measure due to the fact that the young guns wish to discover and learn more and more through their action, through social engagements and collective play. The parents must thus keep the fire to play burning in children, and perhaps give a proper channel to make play a profession later in life.

Teaching focus

It has been observed that during play, children offer single-minded devotion. Play becomes priority as all else gets forgotten. This is laying the foundation of focus and concentration. These are the first signs of understanding a kid’s ability to avoid distraction in areas which aren’t of interest. This ability to focus on one thing at a time can be leveraged by parents to drive home scientific temperament through explaining natural phenomena, trying new ideas, helping them understand their cartoons or virtual life from the real life and the laws that govern real life. For instance, in their play time children may try to emulate their superheroes by trying to fly. Explanation of the phenomenon of gravity will come in handy here.

Alcohol use in children, and how parents can make a difference

Alcohol use in children, and how parents can make a difference

Martin was 17 when he was first introduced to alcohol.

“As a young person, there’s the world of alcohol. You go there as a way [to], I guess, get away from your problems,” he says.

“It’s a way to be social, it’s a way people perceive to have fun, you see it as something to do with your mates and if you are not doing it then … you’re different.”

But for Martin, alcohol soon became a way to cope with his anxiety.

“I think it led to experiences that weren’t necessarily the best for me,” he says.

“The decisions you make while you are under the influence essentially can increase more of that anxiety in you as a young person.”

In a culture where alcohol is prevalent, Martin says the pressure to drink can be overwhelming.

“I think just growing up in Australia in general, there’s a lot of emphasis on drinking alcohol to be social,” he says.

“At a stage of my life where I felt a bit shy or insecure, not confident in who I was, drinking alcohol was a way to cope with that social anxiety.”

Add to that research that finds people living with an anxiety disorder are 2-3 times more likely to also have an alcohol use disorder, and it becomes all the more worrying. Preventing problem drinking from the start

In a culture where alcohol is prevalent, the pressure to drink can be immense — but parents can have an impact.( Unsplash: Kelsey Chance ) It’s a familiar cause of angst for many parents — the concern that as their children grow up, they will encounter or face pressure to drink alcohol or try illicit drugs.

But while the pressure from media and peers is real, parents can make more of a difference than they think.In fact, they are more influential than peers at this stage, according to Associate Professor Nicola Newton, the Director of Prevention Research at the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre. “The most important thing is for parents to know that they still have an influence over their children’s choices when they become adolescents,” she says. “In fact, they are the number one influence over their adolescents’ choices at this stage.”Whilst it may appear and it may seem at the time that peers are the most important influence in your life, parents still have a critical role to play in their adolescents’ health, behaviours and choices.” Dr Newton says to reduce “uptake of substances”, modelling good behaviour around alcohol is key — and that means parents need to have healthy habits themselves.”If your kids are coming home from school and you are there having a glass of […]