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.

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.

What Is Parentification?

What Is Parentification?

Do you feel like you were pushed into taking care of your parents or siblings when you were only a child yourself? That you became an adult before you were ready for the role?

If you’re nodding, you may have been parentified. Being a “little parent” involves excessive responsibility or emotional burden that can impact a child’s development.

That said, it’s important to remember that some responsibility is a good thing. Helping out a parent on occasion and at the right level helps a child believe in themselves and their ability to one day also be an adult.

Let’s take a closer look at how and when the line into parentification is crossed.

In the typical order of things, parents give and children receive. Yes, sometimes — especially in the early morning hours when your baby is teething — the giving can seem never-ending.

But in general, parents are expected to give their children unconditional love and to take care of their physical needs (food, shelter, daily structure). Emotionally secure children whose physical needs are taken care of are then free to focus their energy on growing, learning, and maturing.

Sometimes, though, this gets reversed.

Instead of giving to their child, the parent takes from them. In this role reversal, the parent may relegate duties to the child. At other times, the child voluntarily takes them on.

Either way, the child learns that taking over the duties of the parent is the way to maintain closeness to them.

Children are pretty resilient. We’ve already said that some level of responsibility can help a child’s development — but 2020 research takes things further. The researchers suggest that sometimes, parentification can actually give a child feelings of self-efficacy, competence, and other positive benefits.

It seems that when a child feels positively about the person they’re caring for and the responsibilities that come with the role of caregiver, the child develops a positive self-image and feelings of self-worth. (Note that this isn’t a reason to pursue or justify parentification.)

Not all parents are able to take care of their children’s physical and emotional needs. In some families, the child takes over the role of caregiver in order to keep the family functioning as a whole.

Parentification can happen when a parent has a physical or emotional impairment, such as the following:

  • The parent was neglected or abused as a child.
  • The parent has a mental health condition.
  • The parent has an alcohol or substance use disorder.
  • The parent or a sibling is disabled or has a serious medical condition.

Parentification can also happen when life throws curveballs, like:

  • The parents are divorced or one parent has died.
  • The parents are immigrants and have difficulty integrating into society.
  • The family experiences financial hardship.

There are two types of parentification: instrumental and emotional.

Why does my child bully other children? How do I stop him?

Why does my child bully other children? How do I stop him?

What causes children to be abusive and how can parents help them stop hurting others?

cyberbullying (illustrative) Practically every parent sends a child to an educational setting with certain concerns, and prays that he/she won’t be harmed, humiliated or insulted. And this fear is well-founded – children from kindergarten age to youth in military settings suffer from ridicule, shaming, exclusion, humiliation, slaps, beatings, sexual assault and other forms of violence, which is very frightening.

But just as we fear that our children will become victims, how will we react if we find out that, actually, it’s our son or daughter who’s the one threatening others and acting out violently?

Before we’re overwhelmed with feelings of severe parental failure – it’s important that we understand that how we behave has a purpose and is observed by our kids, and even if the path is negative, the final goal will be positive and bring us to a place where we feel loved, wanted, accepted, capable and belong to family and society.

Indulgence leads to inferiority

We make mistakes due to a variety of emotional difficulties or physiological disabilities, yet they also reflect the relationships we have at home, the family atmosphere and the lifestyle our child adapts to as an outcome of all of these.

A family atmosphere based, for example, on dominance and inequality, one that distinguishes between the dominant and the controlled and which elevates the strong over the weak, may lead the child to think that in order to belong to the family and society, he/she must be strong, insist that his/her way is the only way and adopt a powerful stance.

Children who have been weakened or attacked themselves and can’t confront the abuser with his/her pain will direct the negative feelings that have accumulated in them toward others.

A child who doesn’t experience warmth, love, encouragement, acceptance and whose physiological and physical needs are ignored so he/she can’t properly grow and develop; he/she may believe that his life has no meaning and so will turn his hopelessness inward and on others to thwart any intention to help him.

On the other hand, Alfred Adler, the father of Adlerian theory, is against indulgence. He claims that a girl whose parents treat her like a princess, removing every obstacle and providing her with everything – will go out into society without coping techniques and won’t believe in her abilities. A pampered girl who is used to getting everything she wants, always and on-demand, will express dissatisfaction when her demands aren’t met and will express arrogance towards adults and children around her.

Similar to pampered children, who don’t feel capable and can’t recognize their inner strengths, disadvantaged children risk developing a superiority complex to compensate for certain perceived gaps between them and classmates, and to lift their sense of worth – they’ll hurt and demean others.

Stop-go in another direction

If you discovered that your daughter is defaming another girl on social media, that your son is throwing objects at the heads of friends from kindergarten or that your little girl is leading a boycott of a new girl in the neighborhood – it’s time to uproot the pain.

It’s highly advisable not to handle matters alone, and to first involve the school staff. The school counselor, kindergarten teacher or homeroom teacher has the tools, experience and familiarity with the various treatments.