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Building Emotional Intelligence

How can we build our child’s Emotional Intelligence (3 to 8 year olds)?

If we go back to the original Dictionary meaning of emotional intelligence, we can break that down into 3 parts and explore how to support children in developing each skill. Please note, that even though we have isolated each skill below, these skills all work together and as one skill develops so might many others. For example, if a child is learning about different facial expressions, which falls under being able to perceive an emotion, they are also learning to understand others, therefore developing their social skills. Many of these skills will naturally develop as each child reaches different developmental stages. So, remember it’s a very interesting dance between all the skills involved in developing emotional intelligence.

emotional intelligence

noun
skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings. Abbreviation: EI

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.

1. Skill in perceiving emotions

The skill in recognising and naming emotions is the first step to developing emotional intelligence. It is important at this stage to teach children about recognising and naming emotions in themselves as well as others. There are a few primary emotions that are associated with particular facial expressions eg. fear, anger, happiness, surprise, sadness and disgust.

These skills can be developed with:

  • Stories & discussion
  • Facial expression cards
  • Body language cards
  • Role playing

2. Skill in understanding emotions

The skill in understanding emotions is the second step to developing emotional intelligence. It is important at this stage to teach children about triggers in themselves as well as others. It is also important to support children to develop their knowledge and understanding of when certain emotions might most likely be experienced. For example, one can be sad when a pet dies or happy when their grandmother comes to visit or nervous of new situations etc.

These skills can be developed with:

  • Stories & discussion
  • Role playing
  • Drawing their attention to their feelings when something happens e.g. Ask them, “How do you feel about bumping your knee?” or “How do you feel about being left out of the game?”

3. Skill in managing emotions

The skill in managing emotions is the third step to developing emotional intelligence. It is important at this stage, once they can perceive, name and understand what they are feeling, to be able to manage what they are feeling, therefore developing social integration. Equipping children with a metaphorical tool box filled with strategies is the key to developing the ability to manage emotions. So, when they find themselves in a tricky situation they have a few options to choose from to assist them in making healthy decisions. Therefore, realising that there are choice moments and that choices lead to consequences.

These skills can be developed with:

  • Stories & discussion
  • Role playing
  • Recognising choice moments
  • Recognising choices lead to consequences
  • Building a knowledge of strategies