Children are fascinating — and fascinated — daily. They are constantly learning, processing ideas, and developing their personalities. Small things throughout the day that adults take for granted can be awe-inspiring or completely mind-blowing to kids. They frequently remind us of the simple wonders of the world around us.
All of this learning and discovery comes with some difficulties, though. Many toddlers, kids, and young adults are also trying to figure out how to manage the many thoughts and emotions that are racing through their brains. Sometimes, it is all just too much, leading to outbursts and emotional meltdowns, often at extremely inopportune moments for parents and other caregivers.
Helping children develop a greater sense of emotional intelligence can be a great means of combating some of these emotional meltdowns. Emotional intelligence is the ability to receive, interpret, and react to different emotions. Likewise, it is the ability to understand and respond to the emotions of others in a constructive manner. Overall, it can be an extremely powerful tool that every child can benefit from.
Real Benefits of High Emotional Intelligence
The benefits of having a high level of emotional intelligence cannot be understated, and it can ultimately benefit children in nearly every aspect of their lives. For instance, many schools have been incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) programs into their curriculums for a long time. Studies indicate that students with greater exposure to SEL concepts tend to perform better academically, and SEL is correlated with fewer bullying incidents.
Additional research suggests that kids that learn social and emotional intelligence skills at a young age are more likely to have successful careers, long marriages, and better health. Equally important, the same research indicates that high emotional intelligence reduces the likelihood of developing depression or anxiety later in life. In general, these kids are more able to bounce back from life’s setbacks and difficult situations.
In the long run, having a higher level of emotional intelligence can even help kids land better-quality, higher-paid jobs when they grow up. Many managers are looking for more than just technical skills in the people they are choosing to hire today: They are also looking for people that can interact and work well with peers from different backgrounds and life experiences. The ability to empathize and curiosity about other people are other strong indicators of emotional intelligence.
Mastering Skills To Manage Emotions
Of course, it can be a long and challenging road to develop skills in emotional intelligence. For some, it comes easy, but for many of us, it involves slowing down and thinking deeply about our thoughts and emotions. In fact, one of the most powerful means of helping children to develop emotional intelligence is by encouraging them to have quiet reflection time or some form of mindfulness meditation.
For younger kids, one of the biggest struggles is understanding and recognizing emotions. Sometimes, intense emotions that kids don’t recognize or a lack of language to explain how they are feeling can actually make the situation worse. As a caregiver, helping children develop the language to describe their emotions and some tricks to manage them better — through tactics like child anger management — can go a long way in helping them become successful adults.
Another skill that caregivers can help children develop is empathy. Ask the child questions like:
- How do you think Tommy felt when his ball was lost?
- How would you feel if your favorite toy was lost?
- What would you do to help Tommy find his ball or to make him feel better?
Asking questions that encourage them to put themselves in another person’s shoes and think about how others might feel in a given situation can help build an innate recognition of how others might react.
Developing Your Own Emotional Intelligence
Perhaps one of the most important ways to help children develop higher emotional intelligence is to work on developing a high emotional intelligence yourself. Children are surprisingly perceptive and will quickly recognize if you are trying to teach skills that you yourself don’t also embrace. Leading by example is an essential technique.
The first step in all of this is making sure you are prepared to work with children every day. This means both physically and mentally. Kids can be draining on your mental health, so taking the time every day to have a calm moment for reflection can be profoundly beneficial. Likewise, finding a healthy way to recharge and wind down after a long day with kids will ensure you can put your best foot forward in the days to come.
Many of the strategies to help children develop their emotional intelligence can be adapted to help adults reinforce theirs. Caring for emotional well-being is critical. Things like listening skills, empathy, and the ability to assess and manage emotions are all achievable even as an adult. Small tips and tricks to get you started include things like:
- Writing down three things you are thankful for every day;
- Journaling about how an experience made you feel;
- Taking an extra minute to think about how someone might feel before sending an angry, curt, or frustrated message;
- Practicing mindfulness meditation or yoga.
Emotional intelligence is an extremely beneficial skill for any young person to have. Helping children develop social and emotional intelligence can help them in both the immediate and far-off future. These skills transcend age and will be found useful throughout their entire lives.
Guest Author Bio
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business, technology, and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or getting into the latest tech.