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.