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.

When your child is the bully: Tips for parents

When your child is the bully: Tips for parents

It’s bad for children’s health, makes headlines, and defies most attempts to prevent it. Bullying has become the “big tobacco” of the 21st century.

What can a parent do when their child is engaging in behavior that’s condemned by nearly everyone? We talked with Dr. Peter Raffalli, a neurologist and director of the Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention and Advocacy Collaborative at Boston Children’s Hospital, about kids who bully other kids and what parents can do.

What are parents of bullies up against?

The first challenge for parents is actually believing that their child is bullying other kids. Contrary to popular belief, bullies are often good-looking, popular kids. Adults often consider them role models for other kids. The myth that bullies are rough, insecure thugs can make it very difficult for parents to believe their popular, confident child is bullying others.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a series of mean acts carried out against a single person repeatedly over time. Bullying behavior may include:

  • pushing, hitting, tripping
  • name-calling, teasing
  • spreading rumors, exclusion from a group
  • stealing or damaging property
  • sending hurtful messages over text or social media

The next challenge parents face is getting their child to talk about their behavior. Often, when confronted, bullies become defiant. They roll their eyes and refuse to answer questions. They may insist that what they’ve been doing is not bullying or that the other kid deserves it.

Understandably, many parents of bullies don’t know what to do to change their child’s behavior. We know that punishing them does not work. Schools can suspend bullies, parents can ground them, but as soon as the punishment ends, the bullying starts again, sometimes worse than it was before. This is why in the bullying clinic, we recommend a therapeutic, rather than punitive, approach to bullying.

What motivates kids to bully other kids?

Some kids bully out of a need to be the top dog at school or in their social circle. They pick on kids they perceive as weak — kids who are shy or ‘different’ or don’t have a lot of friends. No matter what sets their victims apart, kids who bully have more power and use bullying to maintain it.

Sometimes kids who bully have a neurodevelopmental disorder like attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They have trouble handling frustration and controlling their impulses. Ironically, this can also put them in the sightline of other bullies, and many kids with ADHD are both bullies and bullied by others, in other words, bully-victims.

For other kids, the root of the problem is at home. We see kids in the bullying clinic who witness abuse between parents or are being abused by a parent or sibling. They then repeat this behavior at school, except they’re the ones abusing their peers.

Supporting a Child in the Five Areas of Emotional Intelligence

Supporting a Child in the Five Areas of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others. Its development is distinct from the development of academic intelligence and a child can benefit from the positive impact on success and wellbeing that it can provide. A child experiencing some of the less helpful characteristics common in high learning potential children, such as the tendency towards perfectionism, social challenges, or worry and anxiety, could benefit greatly from the mitigating effect of the development of their emotional intelligence. In our blog Emotional Intelligence and High Learning Potential we looked at what emotional intelligence is and its impact on children with high learning potential. In this article we look in more detail at the five key skill areas identified as constituting emotional intelligence by psychologist Dr Daniel Goleman:

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to recognise your own emotions (and how they affect not just yourself but others around you).
  2. Self-regulation: the ability to remain in control of your actions, whatever emotions you may be feeling.
  3. Motivation: the ability to persevere in your pursuits, even in the face of difficulties.
  4. Empathy: the ability to understand and respond to the emotions of others.
  5. Social skills: the ability to use emotional intelligence in the context of interpersonal relationships.

Self-Awareness

Being able to understand their emotions: what they are, why they are experiencing them and then what to do in response to them, goes a long way in building up emotional intelligence. You can help your child by discussing your own emotions; by modelling emotionally intelligent behaviour, showing them that it is okay to have all different kinds of emotions and that we can respond to them in a positive manner.

Talk to them about how you feel; about how they feel, and about both the big and the small emotions, in order to take the fear of the unknown out of the equation. This can be of immense help to a child who may previously have found it difficult to discuss their feelings. Modelling behaviour in this way can show them that the world does not end when we admit to our emotions; that, in fact, it becomes a whole lot easier to navigate once we do not fear our feelings. Validate their own emotions, and their intensity, and make such discussions so regular that the whole process becomes comfortable, normalised, almost automatic, and certainly significantly less scary.

If they are not comfortable vocalising their emotions, allow them to write them down or draw them. Perhaps make up some emotion cards so that your child can pick out the ones that they are feeling at that moment, or ask them: “If you were an animal, what would you be?”. Helping them to develop the confidence and the vocabulary to recognise, name and describe their emotions will help them to feel more in control, and they can begin to take ownership of them. From that point, they will be much more able to go on to choose appropriate ways forward. For more support in helping them to develop their emotional literacy, see our advice sheet PA616 Describing Feelings

It is also only with the development of such self-awareness that a child can go on to develop another of the key skills of emotional intelligence: empathy. From the stepping stone of being able to recognise their own emotions they will be able to move on to identifying the emotions of others.

5 Ways To Develop A Growth Mindset In Your Kids

5 Ways To Develop A Growth Mindset In Your Kids

The opportunities of the future lie with those who have the confidence to spot them and audacity to go after them. “Today, the shift from ‘I’ve got a neat idea’ to ‘I run a billion-dollar company’ is occurring faster than ever,” as Peter Diamandis put it. It starts with a growth mindset, and growth mindsets are developed in childhood. Under-utilised potential exists in adults everywhere you look, but we can get kids off to the right start by being intentional.

David C Hall is committed to the success of future generations. Hall is managing director of Potential Unlocked Tuition, a UK-based training company that creates “fulfilled, successful, transformed lives.” His team has supported thousands of children from struggling at school to feeling in control, confident and happy. Hall wrote the bestselling book, The Empowering Parent, and advises government and educational establishments on unlocking the potential of children.

I interviewed Hall about how parents can set their kids up for happy and prosperous futures, by nurturing a mindset of growth.

Create an empowering home

A child spends most of their time at home so it’s crucial that it forms a foundation for a growth mindset. “Home should be an enjoyable, happy place where we live, laugh and learn,” explained Hall. His work has shown that “parents who provide a warm and responsive home environment that encourages exploration accelerate their children’s intellectual development.”

A young person feeling calm and relaxed in their house, before and after school, is more likely to develop their interests or feel confident to experiment or express themselves. A home filled with anger and angst means suppressed emotions and suppressed potential. “Children need stable, supportive home environments to enhance their cognitive, emotional and physical wellbeing,” added Hall, who urges parents to think about “all the human and material resources present within the home that affect the child’s life.” These include the “socialising facilities available in the house; how well it’s set up for conversation and play.” It also includes the parents’ stress levels, health and mindset. Happy parents make happy kids and happy kids learn and grow at an accelerated rate.

Establish routines

Fixed routines might seem like the paradox of a growth mindset, which evokes fluidity, but structure can empower and provide the springboard for possibility. “Empowering family routines give the home environment a predictable structure that creates a stable emotional climate,” explained Hall. This will “support child development and academic success.”

Having worked with parents, educators and policymakers to enable young people “to enjoy passion-driven careers and be positive contributors to society,” Hall has created three main strategies for developing empowering family routines. The first is […]

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 […]

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 […]