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.

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.

I blamed myself for my child’s disability

I blamed myself for my child’s disability

Parents have to ensure that they do not let society’s misconceptions make them feel guilty. DR RADICA MAHASE

“I blamed myself for my child’s disability. I felt that as his mother, I must have done something wrong when I was pregnant with him. Maybe I ate too much junk food? Maybe I didn’t take the right vitamins or should have taken more vitamins? Maybe I did something wrong in the first year of his life?

“I mean, he was my first child, I didn’t know anything about taking care of a child, supposed I hit his head, or didn’t breastfeed him enough?

“My son is now five years old and the guilt I felt when we found out he had developmental issues is now gone. After years of reading up on my son’s disability and sessions of counselling, I am finally in the place where I accept my son fully and I don’t blame myself anymore. Instead, I just focus on him and helping him with his daily challenges.”

Natalie, the mom above, is just one of many parents who blame themselves for their children’s disabilities. Many parents feel a deep sense of guilt when their children experience developmental delays and often it takes some time to process feelings of guilt. Many parents blame themselves for their child’s disability. Why do parents blame themselves? For many, both mothers and fathers, a child with a disability is just not what they imagine their child would be or what they imagine parenthood would be.

Added to this is the fact that society in general places emphasis on the high achievers and there is the common misconception that children with disabilities will not be high achievers. The general perception, propagated by media, the education system, etc, is that children who are not high achievers are “less,” or are a “disappointment” and not as capable as contributing to society.

Sadly, as a society we always looking to place blame on someone or something – it is a dominant part of our social behaviour. Thus, parents of children with disabilities are made to feel they have brought “a lesser child” into this world.

One parent, Nigel, said, “When my son was born, I had a hard time accepting him. I felt like it was my fault, that maybe I passed on ‘bad’ genes to him.

“My neighbour organised counselling for me at the church nearby and I went and I regretted it. The pastor told me that I didn’t pray enough and that my child is paying for my sins. He said that the only way to ‘cure my child’ was to come to church regularly, make regular monetary contributions and let the pastor pray for her. He said that I had […]

DESR: Why Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation is Central to ADHD (and Largely Overlooked)

DESR: Why Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation is Central to ADHD (and Largely Overlooked)

Deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR) is a relatively new term used to describe the problem of impulsive emotion coupled with emotional self-regulation difficulties long associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). DESR may be new to the ADHD lexicon, however I argue that it is a core and commonly overlooked component of the disorder — and one that can help predict a patient’s impairments, and even improve diagnostic and treatment practices.1

Emotional dysregulation is noticeably missing from diagnostic criteria for ADHD. However, most patients and experts recognize that it is central to the disorder2. DESR, a manifestation of emotional dysregulation, specifically refers to deficiencies with these four components of emotional self-regulation3:

  • Ability to inhibit inappropriate behavior triggered by strong emotions. I argue that this emotional impulsiveness (EI) is an aspect of poor inhibition associated with ADHD that is illustrated by low frustration tolerance, impatience, being quick to anger, aggression, greater emotional excitability, and other negative reactions, all of which are related to the impulsivity dimension of the disorder
  • Ability to self-soothe and down-regulate a strong emotion to reduce its severity
  • Ability to refocus attention from emotionally provocative events
  • Ability to organize or substitute more moderate, healthier emotional responses in the service of goals and long-term welfare

To understand the role of EI and DESR in ADHD is to acknowledge the prominent role of emotional control difficulties in the disorder’s appearance and outlook, including understanding the following:

  • Why these issues are prevalent in individuals with ADHD
  • Why major comorbid disorders often develop as a result of these challenges
  • The major life impairments not adequately explained by traditional symptoms of ADHD

A wealth of compelling evidence — from ADHD’s clinical conceptualization over time to neuroanatomical and psychological research — clearly shows that EI and DESR are key components of ADHD and should be incorporated into the disorder’s diagnostic criteria and treatment practices.

EI and DESR: Evidence of Its ADHD Ties

1. EI and DESR in Historical Concepts of ADHD

Conceptualizations of ADHD have included emotional control problems for centuries. One of the earliest references to attention disorder in western medical literature4, a textbook written by German physician Melchior Adam Weikard in 1770, characterizes those who have a “lack of attention” as “unwary,” “flighty,” “careless,” mercurial,” and “bacchanal.”

EI and DESR through history4:

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.