We all hear about emotional intelligence all the time, we read articles and books about it and we talk to our children about it, but what does it actually all mean? Emotional Intelligence or EQ refers to a person's ability to identify emotions that they experience, as well as being able to identify the emotions of others. In addition to being able to identify the emotions, an individual with a well developed EQ will also be able to effectively manage their own emotions. Similarly, they will also be able to recognise and appropriately respond to the emotions of others, and display empathy for them.
Why do we need EQ
Emotional Intelligence seems to have gained additional attention in the recent years as it is highlighted as one of the critical skills that individuals will require as we venture into the 4th Industrial Revolution. EQ is listed among other skills such as; Complex Problem Solving; Critical Thinking; Creativity; People Management; Judgement and Decision Making; Service Orientation; Negotiation and Cognitive Flexibility.
It is important to bear in mind that EQ (and all the skills identified above) are, and should be, regarded as critical skills irrespective of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Reflecting on the list of skills, we can understand how each of these will be beneficial to all of us on a daily basis.
Some parents begin to feel quite overwhelmed at the thought of having to teach their children about emotions. Often this is due to them not having trained their “EQ Muscles”, but this is ok. There are many ways that we can explore the realm of emotions with our children in relatively unthreatening ways. Here are some suggestions that you may find helpful.
WHAT DO I FEEL?
The world we live is a complicated minefield of relationships. Having the necessary social-emotional skills to help us to navigate our way through life, connect with others, and build lifelong relationships is critical. As such, as a parent it is so important to teach our children to identify, express, and to manage their emotions in a healthy way. But, in order to teach our children, we first need to be able to identify and regulate our own emotions.
TALK ABOUT STORIES THAT YOU HAVE READ OR WATCHED
Reading stories aloud to our children offers numerous learning opportunities, in particular with regard to identifying and understanding emotions in others. Turn your reading into a conversation where you ask questions and probe gently for some engagement. Let your children use their creativity and explain their own predictions for what might happen. Don’t rush the reading, and allow time to comfortably consider the characters emotions and responses, the conflicts, resolutions and the consequences. Help make the story more relatable by sharing your own experiences or linking it to things more relevant to your child's present situation. Additionally, you can also make use of movies as a means of engaging in this type of conversation. The movie Inside Out is a great movie that speaks directly to emotions and wonderful characters to help externalise the concepts of emotions and the role that they play in our lives. There are countless other movies that can also be used, often allowing for more targeted discussion on specific issues.
How much time do we spend talking about the things that aren’t working or that we don’t have? How much time do we spend talking about the things that are working, or that we appreciate around us? Research suggests that people who practice gratitude are happier, which makes sense. If we want to be happier, and we want our children to be happier, then practicing more gratitude can be a simple way of helping to make this a reality.
So often we tell our children to be kind to others and to consider others, but how often do they experience that from us as their parents? We all understand that children are like sponges and they take everything in, even the things that we don’t think they saw or heard. They are constantly watching us and learning from our behaviour, and so if we are asking them to be kind we need to ensure that we are being kind too. Everyday is a series of choices that we make, and we have countless opportunities to demonstrate kindness (not only to our children). These acts need only be a smile and thanks given to a stranger, but these small acts of kindness have the power to change someone’s life. Let your children see this, model kindness and forgiveness for them and talk about it with your children. Being involved in activities that give back are such useful opportunities to not only demonstrate kindness and teach our children about the value of kindness, but these activities can also feed into discussions about gratitude.
TEACH COPING SKILLS
Coping skills for life in general are very important for children to practice before venturing off into the world. Unfortunately, emotional coping skills are often overlooked in this regard and so children go off into the world being able to problem-solve, and manage conflict, wash their own clothes or manage their time, but unable to regulate their own emotions. Stress and strong emotions are a part of life, and so the sooner your child is able to effectively manage their strong emotions, the better. The more tools you can add to your child’s coping skills arsenal, the better.
Play is a critical component of childhood. Children use play to learn how to navigate their way through real life. They use play as a means to test what they are leaning and their understanding of things. When we as parents allow ourselves to engage with children on this level, we have the amazing opportunities to work closely with our children on the valuable skills that we try so hard to teach them, while having fun. Games present numerous opportunities for teachable moments that not only support and build your child, but also your relationship. Playing games opens up great opportunities for experiential learning to take place, and there are more than enough games or activities to address all aspects of life.
By being a parent, you’re playing the long game, meaning you are running a marathon not a sprint. It takes time to leave a positive long lasting impact on our children (funnily, it seems to only take one or two moments to impact them negatively). If you don’t see change immediately, it is ok. But we need to remain consistent and committed and you will see the positive impact over time.
Get outside and reconnect with nature. There is a lot of research out there that talks to the positive (and necessary) impact of getting away from technology and getting back into nature. Beyond increasing our health and happiness and helping to decrease our stress levels, getting back to nature also helps to promote an appreciation, concern and connection with our natural world.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Times have changed sig
nificantly, and we live in an amazing world at present with so much on offer to us all the time. Unfortunately, with so much progress and development happening, children often have too many choices that they are confronted with daily. They have too many options of things to do and as such, they are constantly busy. The modern child does not get bored, and as such they don’t know how to manage the thoughts and feelings which arise when they are bored. For all of us, being able to be alone with ourselves, and being comfortable to sit with our own thoughts and feelings is essential. As such, we need to help to keep things simple for our children where we can. Help to cut back on things, and in doing so you can help clarify what is really important.