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Nurturing Emotional Intelligence in Children

  • 16 September 2023

A few decades ago, intelligence and emotions were seen as separate and unrelated. But we now live in a world where we thankfully appreciate one segueing into another with commendable levels of fluidity that ought to have always been attached to these qualities.    

Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage, recognize, understand, and express one’s emotions. It also involves the ability to empathize with others and to build and maintain positive relationships. While emotional intelligence is largely considered to be innate, it is also a skill that can be learned and developed. Parents and educators can play a key role in nurturing emotional intelligence in children.  

Here are a few tips:  

Listen to your child’s emotions: An important prerequisite to nurturing emotional intelligence is to listen to a child’s emotions. It is important not to dismiss or downplay their emotions. Acknowledging how they feel and telling them “I understand you are annoyed about not being able to get what you want” for example, will not only make them feel important but also arm them with the vocabulary needed to express how they feel. This is also likely to turn into an exercise in building listening skills in children. Those who listen to themselves and to others are more attuned to their own and others’ emotions and are likely to be more adept at dealing with people in future.  

Keeping your tone polite: While our instinctive reaction to an instance of a child plying us with too many questions or to a child’s expression of anger is to meet it with anger from our own end, it is important to have this idea imprinted on our minds that children learn from adults. An outburst of anger from our end will convey an inappropriate message to the child that socially unacceptable manifestations of anger are the norm. Instead, staying calm and using a firm tone to denounce extreme expressions of anger, for instance, will help you come across as a role model. Children learn more by example than by precept.  

Teach your child self-regulation: An invaluable skill that children will treasure through their lives is their ability to calm themselves down. Age-appropriate techniques to handle emotions can be handy in dealing with crummy situations. A child can be taught to write down his/her emotions, which can be a fruitful exercise in calming down while also allowing them to reflect on how they feel. This would give them a sense of control over themselves in the long run. Playing calming music or teaching a child to talk gently to himself/herself out of the situation can be effective ways too.  

Role-play for Problem-solving: Creating situations where children imagine themselves in knotty situations will help them build empathy while also encouraging them to blend rationality with emotions to propose the best solutions/decisions. Decision-making is an ineffably precious skill in today’s world and equipping children with this skill from early on will help them handle sticky problems with insight. They will also grow up to be more compassionate and manage to keep tabs on the emotions of those around them.  

Being in control of oneself is an essential skill in a world where positive and negative influences are constantly vying for our attention. Rather than leaving the development of this skill to chance, let us play an active and well-planned role in the emotional growth of our children. This will give them the much-needed ballast to navigate the ups and downs of life.