Children’s brains grow at a rapid rate. They are constantly reacting, adapting, and developing ideas based on their experiences.
So alongside equipping them with the knowledge of facts, figures, and theories, there must also be an element of social and emotional learning in their growth process, be it at school, with their teachers and friends, or at home with close relatives.
When we teach our kids emotional intelligence, which means how to recognise their feelings, understand where they come from and learn how to deal with them, we are teaching them essential skills for their success in life.
The fact that children today are spending more time in front of computer screens and smartphones, chatting with friends (and even strangers) on social networks, creates an even greater need, now more than ever, to develop emotional intelligence, from an early age.
When we nurture the emotional development of our children, they learn how to deal with their feelings in a healthy way, how to positively resolve conflicts, and make responsible decisions. These will in turn empower them for the challenges of an increasingly complex world.
Psychologist Daniel Golemani lists Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) as a combination of:
Goleman, D. (2010).Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury.
- Self-awareness: Recognising one’s own emotions.
- Self-regulation: Being able to regulate and control how we react to our emotions.
- Internal motivation: Having a sense of what’s important in life, and using it to set and attain goals.
- Empathy: Understanding the emotions of others.
- Social skills: Being able to build interact appropriately with others under various circumstances.
The good news is that all five components of emotional intelligence can be taught and learnt at any age.
If a child receives very little emotional support at home, he may become vulnerable to peer pressure, worry, and anxiety. A child may deal with his anxiety and fear by hiding it under a facade of toughness. This could possibly lead to his turning into a bully, or becoming an under-achiever who suffers from low motivation.
Here is what we can do to help nurture our children’s EQ:
Help your child identify his emotions: Do not judge or criticise your child’s emotions as trivial. Help him to understand what he is feeling and why. Make it a habit to recognise and name emotions as they arise, from young. For example, when they are feeling upset or discouraged, ask them to describe what they are feeling or get them to write it down or draw it. Remember to do it with the good emotions too.
Walk the talk: Most of the time, even grown-ups have trouble handling emotions ourselves, let alone teach our kids. No one is perfect, but remember, as parents, it’s our job to teach kids to control their emotions. We must constantly strive to manage this feat ourselves, and keep a lid on our temper.
Teach empathy: It starts with being empathetic to your own child. Observe and take note of what’s happening in your child’s life, show enthusiasm in their interests. Celebrate their little triumphs and share their sorrows.
It is crucial to be present and keep your focus on your child, when having discussions. So don’t try to engage in quality conversations when grocery shopping for example. Reading, on the other hand, is a great way for both, parent and child to focus. It is also a good way to discuss how the characters of the story were feeling emotionally. Children who feel that they are being listened to and valued, are more likely to show compassion, respect and empathy for others.
Meet your child’s emotional needs. Strive to develop a strong, secure attachment with your child. Your child needs to know that no matter how hard things get, you will be there for him. Guiding him through difficult moments will deepen his trust in you and help him feel secure, thereby increasing the tendency to respond well towards others.
Teach problem solving: Show your child that every problem has a solution if dealt with patience and rationale. Focus on the good stuff, and think about ways that negative situations might be improved. Be okay with failures and mess-ups. Teach children to learn from the past, and to keep moving towards the future.
Give them proper nutrition: You may not immediately realise how your child’s diet affects his EQ, but nutrition plays a crucial part in your child’s brain development, which is central to the regulation of his emotions.
Children who develop a high EQ are more likely to cultivate positive relationships, communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, overcome difficult situations and manage stress. As these children enter adulthood, their sharpened emotional quotient can help them be happier and healthier in their careers and relationships.
Golemani , D. (2010). Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury.