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.
A rich imagination can also create a more positive outlook. A person of many ideas will see several angles rather than one, promoting possibility and other avenues for success. Positivity in children can also promote healthy mindsets and thus exhibit better present and future behavior. Encouraging creativity in your children, rather than diminishing it, can lead to great self-discovery.
Emotional Intelligence Builds Strong Character
Having emotional intelligence can allow a person to become more self-confident. According to a study published in The National Academies Press, self-confidence can lead to success in various settings. Self-confidence is often found in many competent leaders, as they are self-assured with their personal progress and in tune with the needs and objectives of their team.
Emotional intelligence also increases communication and management skills; leaders are able to assess the landscape and see the big picture without neglecting the minor details. When an individual is aware of their own self and environment, they are better equipped to understand others and decrease the likelihood of conflict or misunderstanding.
Encourage your child to become great teammates and leaders by increasing social interaction amongst their peers and holding important discussions. Enroll them into sports leagues or music lessons, or support your little entrepreneurs by hosting a bake sale or lemonade stand in your neighborhood or school.
Exhibiting high emotional intelligence can allow one to better manage challenges and stay positive in the face of adversity. Obstacles can be seen as opportunities. Children who are in tune with their emotions may even be willing to understand and explore the root of their discomfort rather than suppress it and engage in negative behavior. Through recognizing emotions, they’re able to exhibit emotional self regulation while also being in tune with other people’s feelings. They can use feedback to their advantage to improve their performance rather than be crippled by it. As parents and caregivers, it is important to provide support and resources to your child as they undergo their emotional and mental development.
Emotional Intelligence Creates Long-Lasting Bonds
Emotional intelligence enables your child to create strong connections with those around them and build impacting relationships. Children who are empathetic to their peers are more likely to establish trust and respect. According to a study by the University of Wolverhampton, children with high emotional intelligence levels also have an easier time adjusting to and sustaining new friendships, having more favorable social interactions with those who are different from them.
When you view emotional intelligence as a tool that will aid in creating long-lasting friendships and cultivate a closer bond with your own child, you are leading by example and setting the tone for their future relationships.
Reviewed by Susan J. Wood, Director of Mental Health
Susan J. Wood, LMFT is the Director of Mental Health at Children’s Bureau and has over 20 years of experience working with children in a community mental health setting. She joined Children’s Bureau in 2015 as a Program Manager in the Antelope Valley and became the program director in June 2018 where she was instrumental in opening and expanding mental health services to the Santa Clarita Valley and Long Beach area.