Children and emotional intelligence

Children and emotional intelligence

Every parent wants only the best for their children. They want them to be happy and to do great in life. But have you ever wondered what our success and satisfaction depend on? Psychology has long assumed that these are primarily our intellectual abilities. That the smarter we are, the better we understand the world around us, the better the job we get, the better we apply ourselves in life, and the happier we are. In the 1990s, however, a new element came into play – emotional intelligence. It quickly became clear that emotional intelligence has at least the same effect on our level of life satisfaction as our mental abilities do, if not greater.

Emotional intelligence includes our ability to understand and deal with our own emotions, but also to recognise the emotions of others, to be able to take in their situation and adapt our behaviour to it, and to be able to communicate about emotions and needs. Although we are probably already born with certain preconditions for the development of emotional intelligence, we can further develop and cultivate it throughout our lives.

We pass on most of the information about how to handle emotions to children unknowingly. Children learn from us by observing how we relate to our own emotions, how we express them, how we talk about them, and how we can regulate them. But just as important is how we respond to our children's emotions: whether or not we accept their emotions and teach them how to deal with them. Accepting emotions, whether one's own or those of your children, is key in developing emotional intelligence. Every emotion that comes has its place, and it is unhealthy to ignore or suppress them.

Understanding emotions is very beneficial if we talk about them and their causes with children. Everyday situations can serve as working material. Talk to the kids about what has just upset them or why they are sad. Do not evaluate or downplay their experience, just listen carefully. If it is difficult for children to describe the situation, you can help them and offer your own perspective. Also, talk about your own emotions and the reasons that led to them.

You can also train with children the process of recognising emotions from facial expressions and attitudes. Play an emotional pantomime, where one shows off an emotion and the other guesses it. With older children, try to determine emotions by tone of voice. Turn your back, say a neutral sentence (e.g. Hello, how are you?) in a tone that corresponds to a certain emotion and let the children guess what the expression is. Or, when going for a walk, focus on the people around you and guess how they are feeling based on their expressions and behaviour.

You can also develop children's emotional intelligence through a variety of games, books or workbooks designed for this purpose. Older children can try Brilliant Brainz magazine, for example. Its regular section devoted to wellbeing offers, in addition to interesting information, training in specific techniques. Or you can read one of our Readmio stories and look at it this time from another angle: What does a character in the story experience and why? What could they do to feel better? We wish you an adventurous journey through a world of emotions full of interesting findings and experiences.

Jane Draber

Is a psychologist specializing in working with children and adolescents. In addition to psychology, she also studied pedagogy. For seven years she has worked in a psycho-pedagogical counseling center. Currently, she devotes herself to psychological work mainly within her private practice.

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