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Teaching kids emotional intelligence

Children don’t understand emotions like adults do. As children develop, they’re dealing with an influx of emotions and may need help understanding what these feelings mean, how they can handle them and use them to relate to others. 

Firstly, it’s important to understand what emotional intelligence is and how you can help set your child up for success at school, at home and into the future.


What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is an individual’s capacity to be aware of, express and control emotions. For example, it’s the ability to:

  • Identify emotions
  • Evaluate how others feel
  • Practice self-control and handle your own emotions
  • Use emotions to facilitate social interactions
  • Relate to others

Although much of childhood focuses on developing academic skills, research suggests that emotional intelligence is essential for healthy relationships, lifestyles and quality of life. 


Building emotional intelligence in children

Emotional intelligence helps shape interactions with others and how children and teens are perceived by others. As a parent or teacher, there are many ways you can teach kids emotional intelligence.

It’s important to take an emotion coaching approach, rather than dismissing and trying to eliminate your child’s emotions. You can act as an emotion coaching parent by valuing your child’s emotions, both positive and negative, practising patience and offering guidance by helping to label emotions and work through understanding and managing these emotions with your child. 

By validating your child’s feelings, you’re helping to ensure that your child has been heard, which will help them replicate this behaviour and instil feelings of empathy. 


Emotional intelligence activities for kids

If you are wondering how to teach kids emotional intelligence, here are a few activities to help.

  1. Help them identify emotions with emotion flip charts or a game of emotion Pictionary.
  2. Encourage them to speak about their emotions and have healthy ways of expressing them through activities like sharing circles and journaling.
  3. Teach them ways to make themselves feel better. For example, if a child is nervous, encourage them to speak openly about their feelings. If they are feeling upset, give them the space to express their emotion in a comfortable environment.

As children develop, they experience an extensive range of emotions, which can be overwhelming at times. Try your best to be patient and use your own emotional experience to help them identify and process their emotions and set them up for success in the future. 

If you’re struggling with developing emotional intelligence in your child or teen, you might find a transformative experience like our Junior Leader Program helpful. Our mentors act as positive role models to help teach children important life skills like emotional intelligence. 

You can register or find out more about our upcoming programs here.

If you liked this article, you might also like Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation: understanding what motivates your child.

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