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.

The Secret to Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids, According to a Family Therapist

The Secret to Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids, According to a Family Therapist

It’s natural for parents to want their children to be successful. That’s why so many of us encourage our kids to study hard and master valuable skills. But research suggests that maybe we should all focus less on IQ and more on EQ.

Studies show that emotional intelligence is not only easier to impact through effort than innate intelligence, but it’s also incredibly valuable for career success. One study determined that higher EQ leads to higher pay, and another showed emotional skills are more important for group success than sheer brainpower.

In short, even if you put aside concerns about emotional well-being and focus only on outcomes like salary and job title (which you probably shouldn’t), it makes sense for parents to worry more about raising kids with high EQ than it does to stress endlessly about intellectual achievement.

If you’re wondering how to do that, a recent TEDx Talk by Lael Stone, an Australian family therapist and founder of an elementary school, is a good place to start. In it, she offers simple but powerful advice parents can use to help their children develop high emotional intelligence.

“Children cannot be what they cannot see.”

In the talk, Stone notes that there are generally three ways parents handle their kids’ negative emotions. Some, subtly or not so subtly, push their children to repress sadness and anger (for boys it’s more often the former, for girls the latter). Others model aggression, imposing authoritarian rules and strict punishments for behavior that strays outside those boundaries. Finally, some parents teach expression, giving their kids space to talk through their negative emotions.

How do these three approaches work out in the long run? Unsurprisingly, what you learn as a kid you generally continues as an adult, Stone explains. So kids who learn to repress negative feelings can grow up to become adults who drown theirs in alcohol, mindless social media, or workaholism. Lashing out at kids leads to adults who lash out.

The secret to raising kids who understand others’ feelings and empathize with them, Stone claims, is to give your children the space to understand and express their own emotions. If you provide a willing ear to hear about your children’s frustration or fear, they will learn to cope with emotional pain by expressing it to a loved one, therapist, or even just a journal. And maybe even more important, they’ll come to understand that the way to react to other people’s negative emotions is to understand and work through them.

Which sounds simple. And it is. Stone’s big revelation is basically, when your kid is hurting, don’t try to fix it or push the pain away. Instead, give her a hug, ask her to tell you about it, and just listen. That’s not rocket science, though as any parent can tell you, it’s often easier said than done in the moment.

The valuable thing here is a simple reminder that how you handle your kids’ least pleasant emotions will teach them how to recognize and handle not just their own feelings but other people’s too.

Doing that constructively is the definition of emotional intelligence, and as a whole host of research shows, these skills will won’t just make your kids more emotionally balanced and happier–they will also help them get ahead in the world more than a maniacal focus on advanced placement calculus classes and summer enrichment programs will.

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.

How to Teach Older Students Social-Emotional Skills? Try Civics

How to Teach Older Students Social-Emotional Skills? Try Civics

Civic engagement is the oil that keeps the gears of democracy working. But what exactly are the behaviors of an engaged citizen?

Understanding other points of view, solving problems collaboratively, and building relationship skills may all come to mind.

For many educators, those skills will sound familiar, because they’re many of the same taught through social-emotional learning.

Not only are the skills cultivated through social-emotional learning the same behaviors that power civic engagement, but the reverse is also true: Civic engagement can be a meaningful way to teach and reinforce social and emotional skills.

That’s especially true for middle and high schoolers who are searching for their place in their communities and the world and might not otherwise connect with traditional social-emotional lessons, said Jenna Ryall, the director of Civics for All, an initiative of the New York City department of education to promote civic engagement in the city’s schools.

“[Civics] is relatable. It’s a practical application of social-emotional learning,” she said. “I think that is the best way to teach social-emotional learning—if [students] can see how it’s applied beyond the classroom walls, if they can see how it’s improving their interpersonal skills, if they can see how it’s allowing them the opportunity of using their voice, if they can see the results of co-creating the school community with the adults around them and the respect they are getting as a co-creator of those things.”

Civic engagement is much more expansive than just voting. It includes volunteering, advocacy, and really anything to do with people coming together to solve their communities’ problems, including those in school communities.

A democracy can’t function properly without the participation of its people, and school is the perfect place for students to learn these skills, dispositions, and habits, said Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow and the co-director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. In many parts of the country, schools may be the only avenue for students to develop their civic muscle.

Researchers estimate that 30 percent of urban youth and 60 percent of rural youth live in what’s been described as “civic deserts,” said Winthrop. These are communities where there are few resources or opportunities—such as youth programming, culture and arts groups, and religious congregations—for youth to be civically active.

Nationally, civic engagement has been on the decline for years.

“I am very worried about evaporating civic disposition among large swaths of the adult population and I’m worried about what effect that is having on children,” said Winthrop. “No one is modeling this to them.”

One doesn’t have to look any further than a number of recent school board meetings across the country where community members have made death threats to board members over masking policies, to see the value of well-developed social-emotional skills to civic life.

Giving students a say in how schools are run and opportunities to work together to solve problems are ways that schools can help students hone their social, emotional, and civic skills.

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.