Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions effectively and positively. Kids who understand their emotions, can name them, and can manage them are better able to cope with stress, manage relationships with others, and communicate more effectively.
There are four main characteristics of emotional intelligence.
- Emotionally intelligent people are self aware. They recognize their own emotions.
- Emotionally intelligent people can self-regulate. They can control how they react to their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them.
- Emotionally intelligent people are empathetic. They understand other people’s emotions.
- Emotionally intelligent people have social skills. They can build connections with others.
The best way to teach children emotional intelligence is through modeling. Parents who take time to develop these characteristics in themselves will gain the benefits of emotional intelligence in their own lives, but will also pass these traits on to their children. To help learn these skills AND pass them on to your child here are some activities to do together:
1. In order to be aware of emotions children need to be able to name them. Younger children can look at flash cards depicting various feelings and copy the faces as parents tell them the name for that emotion. Older children can identify times they felt that emotion and what they did about it. (Flash cards can be found by googling “emotion flash cards”, or you can make your own.)
2. Using an emotion thermometer (again, google is your friend), you can teach children how to recognize what it feels like when they are experiencing strong emotions, and provide them tools for “cooling down the thermometer”. These skills can include: talking to a friend or adult, asking for help, counting to ten, taking five deep breaths, or practicing some mindfulness. There are lots of mindfulness for kids clips on youtube or available as apps on a smart phone.
3. One great way to instill empathy in children is to get them involved in regular acts of service. Afterward, listen to your child share with you how the act of service made them feel? Discuss how the service made the recipient feel.
4. Social skills are best developed by lots of practice. Create plenty of opportunities for your child to interact with other children. Go to parks or children’s museums, set up play dates, get to know the kids in the neighborhood. Give your child space to explore and interact with other children. Give them opportunities to work out problems themselves, and step in with guidance when they need it. If your child needs extra help developing social skills, contact our office at (801) 944-4555 for information on the next available social skills group for kids.
There are lots of ways to develop theses characteristics, the important thing is to regularly incorporate these kinds of activities into your child’s life. Doing so will help them (and you) manage stress and anxiety, communicate more effectively, and build stronger relationships with those around them.