Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Teaching Children Emotional Intelligence

 Emotional intelligence is so important for your children to learn while they are young. Most of us use the same 3 to 4 words about how we feel when we are asked “How are you?” However, encouraging children to use words other than “good” or “fine” and to use words like “excited” or “worried” or “curious” will help them recognize feelings and to use their emotions effectively.

So what exactly is emotional intelligence? It is a set of skills associated with monitoring your own and others’ emotions, and the ability to use emotions to guide your thinking and actions. Children with higher emotional intelligence are better able to pay attention, more engaged in school, have more positive relationships, and are more empathetic. Children take these skills with them into adulthood and adults with higher emotional intelligence have better relationships, more positive feelings about work and and lower burnout.

There are five skills that can be taught to increase emotional intelligence, and they form the acronym RULER.

Recognizing emotions in oneself and others. Ask “how am I feeling?” Recognize cues from our body like posture, energy level, and heart rate. These can help identify levels of pleasantness and energy. Children can also learn to think about how their feelings may affect the interactions they have with others.

Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions. Encourage children to ask “what happened that led me to feel this way?” Having children identify the things that lead to uncomfortable feelings can help them manage and anticipate them to have a good response.

Labeling emotions accurately. Have children ask “what word best describes how I am feeling?” Have a list of words they can use besides the typical happy, sad, or mad. This will allow them to pinpoint emotions accurately and help them communicate more effectively.

Expressing emotions in ways that are appropriate for the time, place, and culture.  Teach your children how to appropriately express their emotions. There are different times and contexts where certain forms of expression can be more effective than others. Explain to children what to do in situations and how to express feelings at school, at home, or in public and provide them with models of different ways to express emotions.

Regulating emotions. Help your children find ways to change the way they are feeling or maintain how they are feeling. Come up with short- and long-term ways to manage emotions.

Here are some other ways to manage emotions and help your children learn how too!

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Engaging in private self-talk (“I know I can do this!”)
  • Re-framing negative interactions
  • Stepping back and allowing physical distance
  • Seeking social support (talking to a parent, teacher, friend, or sibling)

Make sure to take time each day to talk with your child about the different things they felt during the day, and getting into what could have made them feel that way! It will deepen your relationship with them and help them have better self-regulation in the future!

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