The Importance of Developing Emotional Intelligence for Kids

The Importance of Developing Emotional Intelligence for Kids

Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” Mohsin Hamid

Navigating emotions is a complex activity and often guides one’s thought process and actions. According to researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, emotional intelligence, or the capacity to assess one’s environment and understand one’s emotions and those around them, is a strong indicator of social awareness. As children explore the world around them, they are susceptible of being influenced to form new perspectives and adopt new behaviors. Kids that learn to connect their own experiences to those around them interact in a way that promotes a much safer and trusting environment. By teaching empathy to our children, we encourage a deeper self-awareness of how to cultivate strong relationships and appropriately respond to personal, interpersonal and external situations. Below, we have outlined some strategies, as well as their long-term benefits, that can support your child in developing a higher emotional intelligence and become a more confident and independent individual.

How We Can Help Kids Develop Emotional Intelligence

We can increase our child’s emotional awareness by encouraging open and candid conversations. Emotion coaching can help a young child deal with difficult emotions. By welcoming our child’s thoughts and concerns, we allow them a space to be vulnerable without judgment and build their emotional literacy.

Simply asking “why?” is an effective method of communicating with your child. This gives them the initial opportunity to both examine and dissect the situation independently and understand why they are reacting in a certain manner before receiving your input. This practice also strengthens their social skills, emotional intelligence skills as well as emotional awareness by encouraging them to take the thoughts and feelings of others into consideration while also learning self-control. Emotions can operate on a spectrum, and helping your children identify these layers can be beneficial to their self-awareness. Difficult situations and big feelings arise at any time in children. Your child’s ability to distinguish each different emotion, while also being able to articulate these feelings will help them develop mindfulness and a better understanding of people’s emotions.

It is also beneficial to take time to acknowledge your child’s successes and uplift them in times of failure. A child’s ability to pick up parenting cues is no easy feat! Children learn to communicate by watching and mimicking their parents and caregivers, so when you are communicating with another person, emphasize listening over responding. Pause for a brief moment and give your children the center stage. Approach social emotional learning with a growth mindset. Emotional skills are hard to learn and take time and patience.

We can also help develop our children’s emotional intelligence by encouraging them to be curious. Observing and being sensitive to many different environments and contexts can enhance one’s ability to adapt to unpredictable situations. Encourage your child to pay attention to how the world functions around them. Engaging in oral storytelling, writing or acting in a play can help your child experience life outside of their own shoes.

The most effective way to develop emotional intelligence in our children is to have them constantly question things by looking within. Give them the space and time to explore their environments and be captivated by even the simplest of things. Looking within helps kids understand different feelings and recognize emotions. Eventually the understanding of emotions can lead them to see other people’s feelings and develop empathy.

Emotional Intelligence Can Help Creativity

New research indicates that a high emotional intelligence can benefit creative performance, even during creative blocks. A child can increase their problem-solving skills exponentially by engaging in activities that promote the use of their imagination. By doing this, they will become more perceptive of patterns which will then allow them to think of innovative solutions in their daily life, ranging from school to playtime.

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.

Approaching children in a way that encourages them to open up

Approaching children in a way that encourages them to open up

According to recent research, the prevalence of anxiety and sadness in children increased during the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the lives of children, who are acutely aware of the changes. As a result, children became introverted, refusing to open up to anyone to express their feelings.

Hence it is critical that schools have well-defined strategies to ensure the social and emotional health of their students. This is especially relevant during this transition phase, wherein children are shifting from online learning to physical school.

Balance between academic rigor and emotional needs

Educational institutions need to accept the fact that these past 18 months have not been easy for any learner, and it has impacted their academic progress. The reality is that in this current scenario, every child will have an academic gap. In senior grades, they are transitioning from online to offline learning.

Although they are glad to return to school, we have to be prepared for challenges. The stress of academics cannot be increased at an accelerated pace, to make up for the academic gap.

We have to assess, where the child is right now and then set the pace for academic progress in a positive and realistic manner. This is applicable, even for children from the primary department, who have undergone 18 months of schooling online and are still, continuing with the same. These children are not only in front of the screen from 8:30 to 3:30; but also have additional homework after school hours. Now after 18 months, the novelty of online school will wear off and they will find it difficult to motivate themselves to fulfil their academic tasks.

For these children, we not only, need to have a blended approach of online & offline activities but also the larger vision, that we aspire to create happy, confident and emotionally happy children. The less stressed the children are, the better will be their academic progress. Hence fine-tuning the pace of academic progress, to a level that does not stress the children out is the need of the hour.

“Mentoring” as a strategy

Schools must create a safe environment for students to express their feelings and experiences about situations, which is essential for developing healthy emotional well-being and individual growth. Children coming back after a long hiatus will face challenges and hence, Mentoring Programs can ensure a smooth transition. A mentor is a grown-up friend for the child — a bond between teachers & students that goes beyond academics. This relationship is a socio-emotional gateway for children. Children can be themselves, express themselves emotionally or any other issue that they are going through. Here the key point to understand is that the role of the teacher should not be misinterpreted. The teacher is an individual in a position of authority who guides the child in every aspect of their learning. Hence, as much as possible, teachers, who assume the roles of mentors to students should be ones who are not in a teacher-student relationship with them.

Holistic and socio-emotional development

Schools must develop programmes that are entirely focused on the student’s well-being and social development, which is critical during a global pandemic. Programmes that go beyond academics and educational transactions focus on forming bonds between students and teachers for the sole purpose of communication. Students spend a majority of their time focused on educational activities, exams, and assignments, leaving little time for conversations that are critical to their mental well-being and growth. Furthermore, schools must focus on a student’s socio-emotional development because it aids in their educational development. Emotions can help or hinder children’s academic engagement, dedication, and school achievement because social and emotional processes influence how and what we learn. Teachers are the primary emotional leaders of their students, and their ability to detect, comprehend, and regulate their own emotions is the foundation for fostering emotional balance in their groups.

4 Social-Emotional Practices to Help Students Flourish Now

4 Social-Emotional Practices to Help Students Flourish Now

Stephanie Jones is the Gerald S. Lesser Professor in early-childhood development at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She is the primary author of the July 2021 report “Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside & Across 33 Leading SEL Programs, A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers, Revised and Expanded 2nd edition,” commissioned by the Wallace Foundation.

Unpredictable. That is how I would describe the last two school years. But there is one thing I would predict about the year that’s just started: It will be just as turbulent, if not more so.

So, what can teachers (and parents) do to help children feel stable, safe, and ready to learn? My counsel is to return to social and emotional learning fundamentals by using strategies from evidence-based SEL learning programs designed for schools and other settings. This summer, I was the lead author on a comprehensive review of these approaches and their specific practices commissioned by the Wallace Foundation. Here are my four recommendations for approaches that will help students feel understood, express themselves, and flourish during this school year:

1. Ask questions and listen actively.

Children are feeling intense pressure this year from parents and teachers. Both feel the need for their children to catch up after a year of online, hybrid, or just unpredictable learning. In addition, many kids (especially older students) lost out on meaningful rituals—homecoming, prom, graduations, and sports events. Many also experienced the trauma of losing a family member to COVID-19 or witnessing a parent or grandparent fight the illness. Indeed, educators experienced many of these stressors themselves.

This disappointment and trauma will show up in the classroom and in the home, and everyone needs space and time to process what is happening and has happened.

So, what can we do? It helps to take time to check in with children and ensure their feelings are heard. A conversation with a teenager might go like this:

Adult: “Hey, I see you are upset (or especially quiet, or something) today. Is something going on that you’d like to talk about?”

Student: “I’m not sure, I just don’t feel like myself, and everything has me worried.”

Adult: “I hear you; everything really can feel out of control right now. I’m here for you, you can talk with me any time, and I’ll do my best to listen.”

2. Let your students know what’s going to happen and establish clear and predictable expectations.

In unstable times, it helps to overcommunicate with students about school schedules and expectations and establish concrete procedures when possible. Predictability is the name of the game—students of all ages will thrive when they feel safe, and safety means knowing what’s coming next. If students are slow to fall into step, give them more space, slow things down, and exhale.

Encourage your students’ families to do the same at home. Keeping wake-up time, meals, and bedtimes as similar as possible makes a difference, and establishing rituals and routines for these everyday activities adds an opportunity for connection. Parents might ask, “What was the hardest and easiest for you today?” Or: “What are you grateful for today?”

3. Provide extra social and emotional time, not less.

If children are to thrive in the current climate, incorporating social and emotional tools and practices into both classroom and at home is essential. Clearly, the exact approach will differ for younger and older students, but both do best in respectful, open, and accepting learning environments.

These are some simple foundational SEL strategies for the classroom:

  • Use journaling. Encourage children to express their feelings on paper.
  • Do daily greetings. Smile warmly and greet each other by preferred name; use whole-group greeting activities.
  • Hold class/family meetings. Foster camaraderie and group-behavior norms.
  • Incorporate art. Use visual arts to document and express feelings.
  • Talk about managing emotions. Engage in a group discussion about emotions and effective and safe ways to express them in class.
  • Employ optimistic closings. “What I learned today is …,” “I am looking forward to tomorrow because …,” “What I might do differently is …” are some examples.
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 […]

Is it OK to step in when your child is having a dispute?

Is it OK to step in when your child is having a dispute?

Teacher, friendship expert and founder of a social-emotional wellbeing program for kids, Dana Kerford, explains the desire of parents to become involved usually stems from good intentions.

“That love you feel for your child is raw and visceral,” she says.

“But the second you find out [your child is in pain and] the pain came from another child, that sweet, warm mother hen morphs into Mama Bear.

“What once was warmth and compassion is now anger.”

And while emotions can run strong, Ms Kerford says it is important (in the majority of cases) to try not get involved in your child’s dispute for a whole host of reasons. Here, she outlines five of them.

Your kids fighting might give you a headache, but it can give them important life skills. Experts give tips on what you can do and whether you should do anything at all.

Ms Kerford says that often “involving the other child’s parent is humiliating, embarrassing, and erodes trust” between the parent and child.

2. You can’t view the situation or your child objectively

As a parent, “no matter how hard you try to see things from all perspectives, you will naturally have a bias towards your own child,” Ms Kerford says.

“You not only love your child; you also have a very large sample size of their behaviour to draw conclusions.”

3. Involvement can be charged by emotions

“When we picture anything negative happening to our child, we immediately experience an innate, sometimes even physical reaction,” Ms Kerford says.

While this is normal, it isn’t always helpful, she explains.

4. Your perspective is different than your child

“What’s huge to you might be small for them or vice-versa,” she says.

While you may think it warrants interception, your child may have moved past the issue by the next day.

5. It makes things unnecessarily awkward between you and that parent

“In the one out of 10 times where the conversation seems to go relatively well, even if both parents are well-meaning, it is often the beginning of the end,” she says.

“Your relationship with that parent will naturally feel awkward and one or both of you will come away feeling defensive,” something Ms Kerford says is instinctive.

This awkwardness and sense of discomfort became the reality for Amanda after she was contacted by Carly. She also says that she felt a prevalent bias by the other mother to her son.