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Emotional Intelligence—THE Skill Children Must Develop to Thrive!

As parents, we know that a comprehensive and well-rounded education stems far beyond formal schooling and academic curricula.

Even when provided with the greatest resources and most prestigious learning environments, children cannot succeed if they don’t have the necessary social and emotional tools to effectively navigate the world around them.

These tools are known to us as emotional intelligence, or the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions appropriately.

The emotional well-being and social competence of your children lay the foundation for their cognitive development and emerging abilities, namely the ability to focus, pay attention, engage in meaningful interaction, and associate words with what they represent. Emotional intelligence directly relates to practically every area of development, from academic and social to physical health.

Being able to effectively utilize these skills not only influences your children’s behavior and accomplishments but their future success as well. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence developed a model of social and emotional learning, rooted in the theory of emotional intelligence, called RULER.

This model has since been implemented in over 2,500 schools across the U.S and other countries. This is an acronym for:

Recognizing emotions in oneself and other people;

Understanding the causes and consequences of those emotions;

Labeling emotions with precise words;

Expressing emotions; and

Regulating emotions.

This approach consists of infusing the principles of emotional intelligence into every possible context, in and out of school. RULER uses many accessible tools to do this. The Mood Meter, for example, allows your children to track their feelings and learn to move from one emotion to another. In this way, it helps them properly identify, label, and regulate their emotions.

As a parent and role model to your children, you need to demonstrate your emotional intelligence, especially in difficult and challenging situations. This is crucial for your child to be able to express their emotions in a healthy way and subsequently build and maintain healthy relationships. Every child has the capacity to develop their emotional intelligence skills, they just need you to teach them how.

Start by labeling your child’s emotions

Children need to learn to recognize how they’re feeling. You can help your child by labeling the emotions they are unable to voice. Words like angry, upset, disappointed, excited, thrilled, shy, hopeful, etc., will allow them to build the vocabulary they need to accurately convey their feelings and emotions.

Be empathetic

When children are upset, the way they express themselves might verge on the dramatic. With that said, never minimize or be dismissive of how they’re feeling because this only teaches them that their emotions are wrong. Validating their feelings and being empathetic of their situation, -even if you don’t necessarily understand why they’re sad or upset, is essential. When they see that you recognize and appreciate how they feel, they will be less compelled to convey those emotions in inappropriate ways or through engaging in problematic behavior.

Display appropriate ways of expressing feelings

Now that your child can identify and label his/her emotions, he/she needs to learn how to express those emotions in a socially appropriate manner. Voicing their feelings or drawing a depiction of their emotions can be helpful but screaming or throwing a tantrum isn’t. The best way to teach your child how to properly express their feelings is by embodying these skills yourself.

Teach your child healthy coping skills

Emotionally intelligent children know how to comfort themselves, cheer themselves up, and even how to face their fears. Teaching your child healthy coping skills and mechanisms should start with specific target areas. For instance, breathing exercises can be incredibly useful when your child is angry and overwhelmed. Coloring books, soothing music, doing crafts, along with other activities that engage the senses can help your child calm their emotions. You can make a designated kit or box that they can resort to whenever they feel upset and need to manage their emotions.

Research shows that children with a high EQ perform better, have higher grades, develop better relationships, benefit from improved mental health, and are more likely to succeed during adulthood than their counterparts. With your unwavering support and guidance, your children can develop the emotional intelligence and resilience they need to succeed in life.

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