The importance of emotional intelligence for children

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Encouraging the development of a child's intellectual intelligence (IQ) is an important part of parenting, but fostering the development of their emotional intelligence (EQ) is just as crucial.

Benefits of EQ

A high EQ helps children to better deal with their emotions, build stronger relationships, appropriately respond to situations and challenges and will set them up for success later in life.

Better management of emotions

At any age, not being able to understand your emotions lessens the ability to control and manage your reaction to any given situation.

This increases the likelihood of engaging in impulsive behaviours and responding with anger, instead of in a controlled and productive manner. These behaviours can have adverse effects on a child’s ability to develop relationships, which can contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Developing a child’s EQ can help them know how to respond to, and communicate the complex range of emotions they experience, which will assist their formation of positive and healthy relationships.

More empathetic

A high EQ helps children to cultivate stronger interpersonal relationships through developing empathy. The ability for children to be empathetic towards others through understanding problems from a different point of view allows them to become more kind, open-minded and flexible individuals.

This improves a child’s capacity to facilitate interactions, manage conflict and offer support which are all important when developing relationships of all kinds, whether it be platonic, familial or romantic.

Improved mental health

Being able to identify and communicate emotions and feelings as a child can develop the ability to feel controlled when faced with a problem or challenging situation.

This can help to minimise a child’s overall level of stress and the likelihood of experiencing other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Ways to develop a child’s EQ

There are a number of ways parents can help their children build their EQ. One particular model, that goes by the acronym RULER, includes five skills that can be taught to children which help foster and develop their EQ.

Recognise emotions

For children, being able to accurately identify their own emotions and how they impact their behaviour is an important skill to develop.

This not only helps children understand how their emotions impact their interactions with others but it can also assist them to correctly recognise the emotions of other people.

Understand the causes and consequences of emotions

Developing a child’s ability to understand where their feelings come from and what triggers their emotions, particularly uncomfortable ones, can help them to better anticipate and manage them.

This can assist children in being able to embrace these emotions and prepare an effective response to their feelings.

Label emotions accurately

Despite there being over 2,000 emotion words in the English language, most of us have a very limited emotional vocabulary. Encouraging children to develop a rich vocabulary will allow them to effectively identify and communicate the emotions they feel.

One way to increase a child’s emotional vocabulary is through the ‘emotions wheel’, which includes numerous different words to describe emotions they can learn and practice using.

Express emotions appropriately

Some forms of expression are more effective when communicated within certain environments. Helping children to understand at what time and in what context is appropriate to express certain emotions is another crucial aspect of developing EQ.

It is important to help children understand that expressing emotions requires a balance between communicating their true emotions while at the same time adapting to the needs of the people and the environment so they don’t negatively impact others.

Regulate emotions

The ability of children to regulate their emotions at any given time is the most challenging, yet most important aspect of EQ.

It is critical to have short and long term strategies that enable children to both maintain good feelings and shift away from negative or uncomfortable emotions.

There are a range of strategies that can help children develop effective emotional regulation, some of which include taking deep breaths, positive self talk and seeking physical distance (e.g. taking a short walk at lunch time).

The ability to understand and control emotions at any age can be difficult, but cultivating skills that help to develop a child's EQ now, will help them to be able to more effectively manage their emotions in the future.

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