Emotional intelligence in children and adults is very similar. We often find as adults it is hard to remember exactly how we developed to be emotionally intelligent and can take it for granted. As with anything, all our children develop at different rates and there is no clear model in which emotional intelligence is developed.
You may ask, how do I know if my child is developing their emotional intelligence. There are many potential answers to this including being able to express themselves, listening to others and showing the ability to self-regulate.
When children can express themselves, even quiet children, their emotions become more noticeable. Children who tend to be a lot louder may be more verbal in their expressions whereas quieter children may decide to sing, draw or sometimes even write about how they are feeling. Some of these behaviours can be missed as they do develop gradually so don’t worry about not being able to pick up on them straight away.
As our children develop, they begin to listen more intently to others. They pay more attention to what others are actually saying and respond in more appropriate emotional ways. To start with children’s conversations can be very disjointed and often don’t show any form of sequence. For example, Billy might say “I have a big cat.” To which Jenny might respond “My Mum is a teacher”. In this example Jenny has responded with something totally unrelated. As she develops the conversation she has will too. Where this is the case, Jenny might respond with something a long the lines of “What is your cats name?” This is because she is listening more activity to what Billy is saying and responding in a more emotionally intelligent way.
Self-regulation is one of the harder skills for children to grasp. As adults we need to ensure we model how to self-regulate as well as supporting our children to develop skills which suit them. A child who is able to self-regulate will show that they are taking time to process things emotionally. For example, Billy might stop and take a deep breath when previously he might have reacted angrily. Acknowledging this behaviour can help teach our children that this is an appropriate way to act.
Should we promote the teaching of emotional intelligence? If so, how? When we model and reinforce certain behaviours, we are already teaching emotional intelligence. Through listening, empathising and discussing feelings, children learn about their emotions and develop a language which enables them to talk confidently about the way they are feeling. Having emotional intelligence can support our children to develop an understanding of themselves and others, being able to communicate and cope with unpleasant feelings. Both as children and adults, emotional intelligence helps us to not only develop good relationships, personal and professional but also maintain them.
Over the years, research continues to show that the best way for our children to learn is through observations and being reinforced for the correct behaviours. Families create their own emotional climates, how, when (or even if) we express emotions. Through watching parents and siblings, children begin to learn through these experiences. As parents we can offer support and scaffold our children in the right direction to help develop their emotional intelligence.
Playing games and approaching the subject in fun and engaging ways offers learning in a way which suits them. By adapting the well-known game ‘Simon Says’ is a great start. To begin the game, you could start by asking the children to express an emotion whilst also modelling this emotion yourself. For example, “Simon says: do a sad face” (stick out your bottom lip) or “Simon says: be confident” (stand tall). Once your children grasp this way of playing, change it up a bit. “Simon says: be confused” (roll your eyes, look like you are thinking). “Simon says: You’re hurt” this time, however, don’t offer a visual cue. So, for every second instruction you give them, only offer a verbal command. Then to make it a little more challenging, offer just the verbal commands allowing the children to think of how to show the different emotions. Each command you give should be encouraging your child to express different feelings, thoughts or intentions. Through recognising these different emotional states, children begin to develop the ability to be aware of the emotions they express as well as being able to show empathy.
With the lifestyle we are currently living in, our children are more likely to be showing signs of anxiety, stress and other unsettling emotions. Now more than ever, it is vital we help them to learn to express themselves in emotionally intelligent ways. Children’s emotional well-being and their mental health is a key interest of mine. I am an experienced Primary School Teacher and qualified Coach and Therapist, specialising in supporting the mental development of our children. I am passionate about empowering our young ones to become the best version of themselves, equipping them with tools and techniques to learn how to be emotionally intelligent. As well as offering 1:1 Sessions, Parent and Child Workshops, I also have a number of products which are available for you to use at home with your children.
For more information, or even just a chat, please feel free to contact me:
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