Emotional intelligence is one of those buzz phrases that is also a bit fuzzy. What is it? Can it be taught, like some other ‘intelligences’? If so, how?
Well, emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with good mental health, making it incredibly important as well as reasonably easy to nurture in your children. The term was coined by psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in the early ’90s, to describe the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings, to discriminate amongst them and to act according to that information.
Knowing the key ways to nurture your child’s emotional intelligence will help them to become empathetic, understanding and healthy individuals.
So, how do we do that?
1) Listen to your Child’s Feelings
When a child’s sad, sometimes it can be all too easy to dismiss their feelings as temporary and immature. This can be very damaging to their emotional intelligence. If a child isn’t listened to when they are hurt, angry or frustrated, they come no closer to understanding the emotion. If they have the ear of a wise, patient adult who validates their feelings and accepts them, they will be more confident and equipped to deal with their emotions in the future.
2) Allow and Encourage Expression
There are healthy and less healthy ways of expression. If a child is experiencing a difficult emotion, it’s important to allow them to express it in a way that’s creative, therapeutic and most importantly safe. When a child’s upset, listening to them before allowing them to draw or even use toys to express themselves will help them to find healthy coping mechanisms and to separate their emotions from their selves.
If you have more than one child, encouraging them to express themselves in front of and to each other can also help to develop their social skills and empathy.
3) Label your Child’s Emotions
Giving a label to an emotion can be an extremely helpful and powerful tool. When a child doesn’t have the vocabulary to describe the way they’re feeling, frustration is added to any existing unpleasant emotions.
When a child knows how to say, “I’m hurt right now,” or, “I’m frustrated,” these feeling will become less overwhelming for them.
4) Practice Problem Solving
An important part of emotional intelligence is the ability to use the acquired information to make thought out decisions.
It you practice problem solving with your child, using made up scenarios where hindrances occur and they have to deal with them, they will transfer what they learn during the role-play into their real life.
5) Less Screen Time!
You knew this was coming, didn’t you?
Whether you love or hate the amount of time your children spend staring at screens, here’s one of many good reasons to cut it down. Too much screen time is hindering children’s emotional intelligence development, as they are spending less time than ever observing other people’s emotions and empathising.
This screen time also means that children are spending less time practising any social skills that they’ve already developed. Without practice, nothing’s ever mastered.
About the Author: