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.

Addressing the mental health of today’s teens

Addressing the mental health of today’s teens

The pandemic has left the world’s teenagers more stressed and anxious than ever, challenging both their mental health and well-being. For help navigating these mental and emotional waters, we turned to Courtney L. Washington, PsyD, CSYAC, HSPP, clinical training director, Park Center, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute, for some much-needed advice and guidance for parents wanting to help.

What effect has the pandemic had on teens’ mental health?

The pandemic significantly impacted everyone’s mental health, causing increased levels of anxiety and nervousness. We all saw and/or experienced a lot of social isolation during this past year when stuck in our homes, unable to connect with each other, beyond a screen, on a basic human level. This separation can and did lead to higher levels of depression. Individuals could also experience the effects of trauma, which involves an increased hyper-vigilance and concern for people’s safety, simply because of how unsafe everyone has felt over the last 18 months.

What are some signs a teenager may be suffering from a mental disorder?

First, it’s important to keep in mind that psychiatric disorders look a bit different in children and teens than in adults. With that said, anytime you notice a general change in your child’s demeanor or functioning, outside of what’s typical for them, it’s critical that you pay attention to it.

For example, we often think of someone with depression as isolated, sad, withdrawn, tearful or crying. However, with teenagers, depression looks a bit different. Many adolescents’ depressive expressions can include aggression, acting out, talking back and defiance. You may even notice some children getting fixated or preoccupied with certain things like talking about the same thing over and over or worrying about germs and washing their hands. These could all be signs of anxiety disorders in teens and young adults.

It’s no secret that teenagers love to sleep, but when is it an indication of something more?

We sometimes see teenagers as defiant, lazy, or attribute their behaviors to their development, but that’s often not the case. Remember, any significant behavior change is usually an indication that something’s happening. Moreover, any shifts in their regulatory system like their sleep-wake cycles (oversleeping/unable to sleep) or changes in their food intake (overeating/under eating) is usually a symptom of something more. If parents or caregivers notice any of these, it’s vital that they check in with their teen and possibly follow up with a doctor or a mental health practitioner.

How can parents and caregivers go about addressing their concerns with their teen?

There are several different things parents and caregivers can do. Ideally, the first step they should take is to simply talk to their children – ask them questions and be sure to provide them with a safe space to share. In most cases, adolescents want to open up but often don’t feel heard in these situations. Usually, as adults, we think we have a plethora of worldly advice to offer, and sometimes we do, but that often overshadows what many teenagers might want or need to share.

I also think it’s developmentally crucial for children and teenagers to see their parents or caregivers struggle sometimes and be genuine about difficult things. Now, this doesn’t mean that parents and caregivers should rely on their children for emotional support because that’s not an appropriate boundary. However, it is acceptable for them to see you feeling sad or struggling while openly letting them know you are having a hard time. This helps illustrate how you deal and cope with challenging situations and that they are a natural part of life.

What other measures can parents take to help their teen navigate mental health challenges?

As previously mentioned, opening the lines of communication and having frequent conversations or check-ins about what’s happening in their life is the biggest step. It’s also important to be as honest and transparent as possible with them. If they’re not ready or willing to talk to you, try seeking additional professional assistance, or looping in another meaningful adult like a favorite grandparent, aunt or uncle. As long as they’re talking to someone, that’s what matters. Research shows that kids should have at least one meaningful adult relationship in their life to help keep them on a positive path.

5 Reasons Your Kid Might Be Performing Poorly in School

5 Reasons Your Kid Might Be Performing Poorly in School

If your child’s grades are slipping, there are a few things that could be going on. Here’s what you should know.

Let’s be honest: Parents often worry just as much or more than their kids about a bad report card.

If your child has repeatedly received lower grades in school, chances are you’re probably worried about the next report card almost as much as they are. It’s easy to worry about what poor grades could mean.

There are many reasons why your child may be having difficulty at school. Sometimes, it’s just a temporary issue, explains Amy Marschall, a licensed psychologist who works primarily with children and teenagers.

“There is a huge range of ‘typical’ development, so often a child will be a bit behind but then catch up without intervention,” says Marschall. “I was the last kid in my kindergarten class to be able to read. I just was not getting it, and within 2 years, I was reading at a 7th-grade level.”

However, there are things parents and caregivers can do to help, and early intervention can have major benefits.

“A lot of parents will tell me they had a gut feeling when the child was very young,” Marschall says. So, if you’re worried, a good first step may be to figure out why your child is having difficulty academically.

“If there has been a sudden change in your child’s performance; if they were doing well and suddenly began [having difficulty], look into stressors or changes in their life that might be affecting them,” suggests Marschall.

Stressors that might influence your child’s performance in school could include:

  • changes at home, such as the arrival of a new sibling or the separation of parents
  • a demanding schedule
  • puberty

Stressors rarely occur in a vacuum or without warning. For example, if your child is being bullied, you might notice that they seem particularly distressed or sad about going to school — in addition to getting poor grades. They might even try to fake being sick just to stay home.If they’re experiencing troubles at home, you might notice that they no longer seem to be reaching their academic potential. They may also lash out more at home, throwing tantrums or behaving defiantly toward family members. The good news is, intervention or treatment can help improve your child’s mood and school performance. For some kids, the problem with school isn’t academics. Instead, they have difficulties with social situations or controlling their emotions.

Emotional dysregulation

Some children take longer to learn how to control their emotions or resist impulsive behavior. This can lead to temper tantrums and outbursts.

Of course, it’s normal for young children to experience temper tantrums or meltdowns when they’re toddlers — they don’t call them the “terrible 2s” for nothing. But most children learn to regulate their emotions by the time they enter kindergarten.

There are many reasons why your child may be having difficulty at school. Sometimes, it’s just a temporary issue, explains Amy Marschall, a licensed psychologist who works primarily with children and teenagers.

How to make parenting decisions like a boss

How to make parenting decisions like a boss

(CNN)Caring for younger kids is often intensely physical, but with older kids, it can be intensely emotional. Why? Because there are just so many decisions to make, and in a world with a shrinking middle class, rising home prices, and a fiery social, political and natural climate, everything feels high stakes.

For those of us who are disorganized, inconsistent, suffering from extreme exhaustion, short on time, money and patience — or who just have school-age kids — Emily Oster’s new book, “The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years,” aims to help in navigating the overwhelming pressures attached to parenting in the 21st century.

Do you start your kid in kindergarten on time, or wait a year so they’ll be the oldest in the class? (Starting a kid earlier means they might have slightly higher test scores someday…but predicts worse performance in school.) Extracurriculars? How many? How do you find a good school — and how does that affect earning potential? What’s a “good school” anyway? How much do parents’ careers affect things like test scores or obesity? How soon do kids need to learn to read?

The way to begin, she advises, is to understand your own values — and there’s a workbook to help decipher them. When a family faces a big choice, she suggests a method called “The Four Fs”: frame the question, fact-find, final decision and follow-up. Learning to make decisions both using data and using business models involves some up-front time, but it makes the process easier later.

Oster’s method is less about how to make the “right” decision than about how to make a decision well for your family. After all, the answers to certain questions — when to get your kid a phone or whether to send them to sleepaway camp — could vary among children, even within the same family.

CNN talked to Oster about making decisions in the age of snowplow parenting — in which parents try to remove obstacles rather than teach their kids to navigate them — as well as different ways to achieve a happy home.

CNN: You say that parenting in the 21st century is an exercise in “extreme logistical complexity.” What does that mean?

Emily Oster: When you cross that threshold into school-age kids and all of a sudden, your kids are doing things outside of school, you end up in a situation in which surprisingly much of your day is logistical management — scheduling activities, driving, figuring out when bedtime is or how much kids need to sleep.

I think in some ways that is different than it was than it was when I was a kid. There were fewer after-school structured extracurriculars and there was more unstructured free time — which may or may not be good but does not require the kind of logistical management that’s a hallmark of this era of parenting.

CNN: You say this is not about what decision to make, it’s about how to make it. Can you explain?

Oster: The questions that people face are really different, and the answers are likely to be really different, depending on your family, depending on which kid it is in your family, depending on all kinds of things. And it is hard to know if you made the right choice — that’s because for some of these decisions, we worry if I don’t do the right thing, there’s going to be some long-term bad thing that will happen. But you’re not going to find out about that until very long in the in the future. There’s no immediate feedback.

How inclusive early learning benefits children, families, communities and the workforce

How inclusive early learning benefits children, families, communities and the workforce

An inclusive early learning environment doesn’t just benefit children with disabilities or special health care needs — it also benefits their classmates, families and the community as a whole, including employers.

In an inclusive classroom, children with physical and developmental differences learn and play side-by-side with typically developing children. Both thrive as a result: kids with challenges in speech or eating expand their vocabularies and try more food simply by watching and participating in activities with their peers, while their classmates learn empathy, acceptance and the value of individuality from a young age.

When early learning staff are able to offer inclusive classrooms, they also help reduce the epidemic of preschool expulsions. Children are expelled from preschool at rates three times higher than any K-12 grade, according to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services data, and many of those expelled are children with disabilities and challenging behaviors. Those expulsions have been shown to have devastating consequences for the kids: greater risk of academic failure, dropout and incarceration. For parents, lack of inclusive care for their kids can cause them to drop out of the workforce, further straining family resources.

What’s an inclusive classroom like for the students?

One of the biggest advantages of being in an inclusive classroom from an early age is that it becomes second nature for children to accept a wide range of abilities. Most children at Northwest Center’s inclusive downtown Seattle early learning center start out in the infant room, says Katrina Caron, director of Early Learning.

“It’s what they know — that there are kids with different abilities,” she says. “It just becomes part of the classroom. It allows for a lot of open conversation.” For example, Caron says that many children enrolled at Northwest Center Kids use feeding tubes, and their classmates often ask questions. NWC Kids teachers answer at the appropriate developmental level for the kids, she says, responding with something along the lines of, “This child eats differently than you do, but they’re still at the table and enjoying being with friends.” When answering questions are a natural part of the school’s environment, Caron says, it’s a way for teachers to educate kids naturally.

Amy Bender, Early Learning Operations director and IMPACT Program supervisor at Northwest Center, shares another common question.
“What I love about kids is they’re not shy and they’re going to ask, ‘Why is my friend in a wheelchair?’ ” Bender says. This is an excellent opportunity for a conversation, she says. If adults shy away from these topics, that can send kids the message that they’re taboo and they should avoid the child in the wheelchair. Instead, Bender says, answer kids’ questions honestly and in a manner that’s appropriate for […]

Kids Don't Always Have to Share

Kids Don’t Always Have to Share

My two-year-old started crying minutes after my oldest son unwrapped his birthday presents. He wanted to play with his brother’s newest haul of toys as soon as they came out of their boxes, but his sibling firmly refused his requests. And while I was disappointed that my oldest child didn’t want to share, I couldn’t blame him either. There could be nothing more annoying to a child than being forced to give your toys away to anyone mere minutes after receiving them.

Not sharing with a friend or family member goes against everything that I learned as a child, though. If someone I knew wanted to use something I was using, I understood I should give them a turn without question. As I saw this scenario play out between my children, I asked myself, “Do kids always have to share?”

I took this question to parenting psychologist, best-selling author, and mother of four, Dr. Heather Wittenberg. She explained that instead of forcing children to share, parents should teach the behavior over time. But she admits that for many parents, that can be easier said than done.

“It’s actually more difficult than potty training because it’s lifelong,” she says. “Sharing is one of the most complex human behaviors, and many folks never get the hang of it.”

Raising young people who consider the well-being of others is one of the reasons that Wittenberg believes in teaching children to share. She offered some tips on how parents can put the practice into action.

Why it’s important to teach kids to share

Sharing falls under the umbrella of the essential social-emotional skills children need to learn to help manage their emotions, feel compassion toward others, and make and keep friends. And while sharing helps promote empathetic behavior in children, Wittenberg says it occasionally clashes with a child’s need to protect their boundaries. It’s a skill that parents have neglected over the centuries because it can teach children at a young age, particularly girls, that pleasing others is important.

“You can’t truly ‘force’ someone to ‘be nice’ or to care or empathize,” she explains. “You can force them to give up their boundaries and insist they share, even if it feels really wrong to them. But that teaches the wrong lesson, doesn’t it?”