My two boys have big feelings. It runs in the family. They’re smart, sensitive, and express themselves with great exuberance. While we know this passion will serve them well when they’re adults, it’s a little crazy-making at the present ages of four and seven. Which brings forth a question faced by all parents: how do we best instill our children’s emotional intelligence (EQ).
In What is Emotional Intelligence and Why It’s Important for Kids, Parentology gets into the nuts and bolts of explaining EQ. Here, we’re focusing on how to propagate emotional intelligence in children. Which leads us to…
Can you teach your child EQ?
Even if you aren’t born with a naturally high EQ, says Jay Shanker, Clinical Associate with the Markham Psychologists Clinic in Markham Ontario, you can acquire those skills. “Intelligence is your ability to learn, – it remains the same throughout your lifetime. Emotional intelligence is more fluid; these are skills that can be improved over time with work.” Furthermore, you don’t need expensive classes and fees to start this training early.
Dr. Shimi Kang, a Vancouver-based psychiatrist and parenting author, concurs. “We have to look at it [EQ] as an art and science just like we teach kids math or spelling. We can’t assume kids know these skills.”
To date, our education system has mainly focused on developing IQ. However, since the EQ movement, established in 1996 by Daniel Goleman, EQ programs in schools have become more prevalent. Known as social and emotional learning (SEL), these programs seek to identify and build behavioral, thinking and regulating skills in children at an early age.
Building EQ in Your Child
Because many of these EQ programs are still in their infancy, it’s important to supplement curriculum with additional EQ practices at home. Teacher and parent educator Anna Partridge recommends four ways to build emotional intelligence with your child:
1. Help Your Child “Name” Their Feelings
Whether they’re “frustrated” or “sad”, helping your child name their own emotions is the first step in taking ownership of them. For example, ask them to describe what they’re feeling, the draw it or write it down. Doing this with all emotions helps your child identify their feelings early on.
2. Talk About Your Own Feelings
Ever heard the expression “show, don’t tell”? Describing your own (appropriate) emotions allows them to perceive it externally. At home, when the adults experience “big” feelings, we try to demonstrate how we resolve or “get over” them. Similarly, we also talk about the positive things too!
3. Recognize Mood or Feelings at Home
You’ve probably noticed how the mood changes in your home if someone has had a bad day, or if you’ve just come back from a party. Partridge recommends discussing these differences with your children, and also identifying how their own emotions impact what happens in the house.
4. Recognize Mood or Feelings in Other Places
When my oldest son started his first year at a new school back in September, we discussed how he was feeling both on the way there and once we had arrived. He could pick up the energy from the other kids in the playground – excitement, hesitation, fear. He expressed the joy of seeing a friend he knew from the playground, and the pride of having a new backpack filled with pencils and a healthy lunch.
Bringing awareness to the feelings they perceive helps your child assess the EQ of the situation or place, which in turn gives them coping mechanisms to deal with their environment.
Being emotionally literate gives your child the opportunity to identify, organize and manage their feelings. By practicing active listening, empathy and self-awareness, we’re setting children up for future success.
Shanker agrees. “Emotional intelligence is essential to handle both positive and challenging situations. Emotionally literate kids are more self-confident and respectful of others. The sooner we lead them down this path, the more positive an impact it will have on their future.”
Jay Shanker, Clinical Associate with the Markham Psychologists Clinic in Markham Ontario
Dr. Shimi Kang, a Vancouver-based psychiatrist and parenting author
Motherly: Emotional Intelligence as Part of a School Curriculum has Long Term Impact
Forbes: Emotional Intelligence
Global News: How to Teach Your Kids Emotional Intelligence Life Skills
Global Times: Parents Enrolling Kids in EQ Classes
The Gottman Institute: How to Strengthen Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence
ISTE: 7 Tips for Helping Students Develop Emotional Intelligence
Psychology Today: Why We Need to Teach Kids Emotional Intelligence
The Guardian: Emotional Intelligence: Why it Matters and How to Teach It
HuffPost: How to Build Emotional Intelligence in Your Child
Diffen: EQ vs IQ