Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a psychological theory that was developed by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1997. It is defined as the ability to ‘perceive, access and generate emotion, in order to assist thought, understand and regulate emotions in order to promote emotional and intellectual growth.’
Emotional Intelligence has increasingly been recognised as a key trait that adults and children must develop. However, knowing how to cultivate and display EI from a young age is not always so simple. There are several ways that you can help your child grow their emotional intelligence.
- Actively encourage your child to pay attention to their emotions and speak about them. Many times, we are told to repress our emotions from a young age and this pattern continues into adulthood. In order for children to be responsive to their own emotions and the feelings of those around them, it is essential for them to recognise and acknowledge changing emotions and how this makes them feel. Describing emotions, such as anger, sadness or joy can help a child identify different feelings and understand how these impact them. This will then enable them to understand how a certain emotion makes them feel and what they can do to regulate any adverse behavior that is associated with an emotion, such as yelling if they are angry. Speaking about emotions openly and ensuring your child that experiencing different emotions is not something to shy away from, or be worried about, will encourage them to be more expressive, whilst also being more attentive to the feelings of others. This helps cultivate the ability to notice changes in a situation or someone’s mood and respond appropriately.
- Speaking about your own emotions with your child and how you have overcome challenges can help your child with their own emotional quotient. In most cases, children’s personality and their reactions are informed by their parents, as children mimic the behavior of those closest to them. Therefore, it is extremely important that whilst developing your child’s emotional response, you also consider your own. This will teach your child that emotions affect everyone. Furthermore, discussing how your own reactions make your child feel can be valuable, as often the response of a child is guided by those of their parents. If you are stressed, this can easily come out in your child, and similarly, feelings of happiness, for instance when parents are happy, are also visible in children. Through exploring your own feelings along with your child, you can help them understand and grow emotionally, whilst also discovering how your own attitude informs theirs.
- Encourage your child to pick on up on shifts in moods. These could change depending on certain times of the year, where they go or what season it is. For instance, your child may feel happier in a certain setting or at a certain time of the year. Children may be feeling happier or more excited at Christmas time, as this means that they are going to receive presents, celebrate and connect with their friends and families. Similarly, they may be more anxious or irritable on a Sunday night before school. Self-awareness around how moods change in different situations can help you and your child detect their response when confronted with a range of circumstances. Once they are able to recognise this, they will be well prepared to confront emotional challenges.
Equipping your child with the right tools to develop their EI will allow them to respond to challenges better, cultivate stronger relationships and understand their own emotional triggers. Actively paying attention to the emotional responses of your child and encouraging them to do so along with you will set them up for greater success and happiness in life.