- What is emotional intelligence?
- Social and emotional intelligence at school
- How to develop emotional intelligence
- Improving emotional intelligence for primary students
- Improving emotional intelligence for teenagers
- Can you test emotional intelligence?
You know the basic subjects that children learn in school: reading, mathematics, science, history...but did you know that students need to learn social and emotional skills too?
Emotional intelligence isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of school, but it is an important part of your child’s education. High emotional intelligence leads to better mental health and academic outcomes.
But what does “emotional intelligence” mean? How can you encourage your child to develop strong social-emotional skills? Let’s dive in.
What is emotional intelligence?
There are two parts to emotional intelligence:
- Noticing and managing one’s own emotions
- Noticing and responding appropriately to others’ emotions
These are not small tasks! We practice and improve these skills throughout our entire lives.
So think of social and emotional skills for children as laying the bricks when building a house - they aren’t going to fully master them now, but they are building a strong foundation for the future. 🏠
The theory of multiple intelligences tells us that there are many different ways a person can be smart. Emotional intelligence is one of those ways!
But think of it as a set of abilities rather than a preferred way of behaving or a personality trait. This means it is something that can be learned, not something a person is born with.
Social and emotional intelligence in the school environment
Emotional intelligence is not just a fluffy extra thing we do in our spare time.
Social-emotional skills actually help academic performance! There are studies that show that students who have strong social and emotional skills do better in all subjects, as well as in developing peer relationships. Emotional intelligence means students can handle a challenge and don’t get sidelined by one bad grade, for example.
Higher education and employers look for high emotional intelligence when choosing applicants. It’s not just what you know on paper, it’s how well you relate to others. 🤗
In schools, social-emotional learning is part of the curriculum, the same as reading and maths. Emotional intelligence helps students focus on their studies because they aren’t as easily overwhelmed with emotion. It also allows them to develop positive relationships with peers.
When students show these skills, you'll know they are developing their emotional intelligence:
- Problem solving
- Peer cooperation
- Willingness to make mistakes and ask for help
How to develop emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is not something you teach once and forget about! As kids develop, they will need to relearn how to manage their emotions. They will also become more aware of other people’s feelings and will be able to take their emotional intelligence to the next level. 📈
General tips for how to improve emotional intelligence
Use “I statements.” Get students in the habit of naming and owning their feelings.
- Develop a check-in time as a family. Why not try out the rose and thorn routine? Everyone shares one positive and one negative from their day. This gives practice time for both naming your own feelings and responding to others’ feelings.
- Teach age-appropriate coping strategies for emotions.
- Model these skills yourself! This is one of those times as a parent where it can’t be “do as I say not as I do.” Your children are learning emotional intelligence and coping skills from you all the time!
- That does not mean you need to be perfect, it’s actually better if you aren’t! Let your kids see you experience strong emotions and cope with them.
Some ways to model:
Think out loud
Name your feelings and make your thinking visible. “I am feeling frustrated because this isn’t going the way I planned.” “I’m wondering how that person might be feeling right now. Her face is giving me some clues.”
Don’t be afraid to come back and talk about it later
Did you lose your cool? 😡 Let it become a teachable moment. Once everyone has calmed down, start a conversation with your child. “Earlier I felt angry and I shouted. I’m sorry. I am working on taking some deep breaths when I become angry.”
Take a break when you need it!
Show your child that mental health and well-being is important by taking care of yourself and teaching them to do the same. Be explicit about what you are doing and why: “I am going to do some yoga because I like the way I feel afterwards.” “Trying a new recipe makes me feel happy and proud of myself.”
Improving emotional intelligence for primary students
Young students will need plenty of guidance, especially if this is new to them. Along with modelling your own emotional management, help them name their feelings as they come up.
Ask them to stop and notice what is happening with their body
Young children have an easier time identifying physical things rather than abstract feelings. You might say, “I am noticing you are shouting and your face is red. I wonder if you are feeling angry right now.”
Allow the feeling to exist 🧘🏽
Emotional intelligence does not mean feeling happy all the time. It also doesn’t mean your child should always be trying to please others to keep them happy. Validate your child’s feelings without trying to fix it for them.
Plan for managing future emotions
Rather than try to manage a big emotion at the moment, talk with your child while they are calm and make a plan. Practice the skills now so that when your child is upset they have the tools they need!
Include support tools
Use a visual to remind your child of their coping strategies.
You can simply write a list, or you can try making a choice wheel. Brainstorm with your child to come up with 5-6 strategies to place on the wheel. Then, when kids are having a big feeling, they can use the wheel to choose something they think would help. You might include:
- Take 5 deep breaths
- Walk away
- Get a drink of water
- Have a family meeting
Another great tool is a physical item for problem solving with siblings. According to the Montessori method, you can use a peace rose or anything that works!
The idea is that the speaker holds the rose and says what they are feeling. Then they give the rose to the other person, who has a turn to say their piece. You can only speak when you are holding the rose. This encourages kids to really listen to each other. 👂
Improving emotional intelligence for teenagers
Some older students will still need some of the supports for primary students, especially if they are on the younger end or struggle with emotional intelligence. That is okay!!
Meet your child where they are at and help them grow from there.
Empathise, empathise, empathise
Teenagers sometimes seem like they are from another planet, don’t they? Do your best to express understanding for their feelings, even if you don’t truly understand or think they are blowing it out of proportion.
Help them find what works for them 🏃♀️
Do they manage emotions best by talking it out? Or maybe they need to be alone with some music, or try some meditation or exercise. Talk with them about what you do to manage stress and negative feelings. Help them notice how they feel before and after activities to see what will work best for them.
Go for a drive
Are you having a hard time getting your teen to open up? Taking a drive provides a low pressure environment for having a conversation. This is partly because there is little eye contact in the car, so teens may feel less “on the spot.”
Encourage them to support others 🤝
It’s hard to see beyond your own experiences, but teens need to be able to identify and respond to the emotions of others too. Help them notice how others are feeling and talk through appropriate ways to respond.
Can you test emotional intelligence?
Yes and no. 🤷🏻♀️
There are assessments that a psychologist can administer. But these are for more severe cases or when there is a developmental delay suspected. If your child is displaying serious social or emotional issues or has experienced trauma, an evaluation might help. 👩⚕️
There are also more casual quizzes available online to test emotional intelligence. These are geared more towards adults, but they can be an interesting experience for older students too. Just know that they are not necessarily super scientific - treat them as a fun way to think about which parts of emotional intelligence to work on next!
For most students, teachers look for the basic skills mentioned above, but mostly they want to see growth in your child over time. Each individual is on their own path! 👍
Emotional intelligence skills will definitely help your child in school, but sometimes they need more. GoStudent tutors provide expert one-on-support in the subject your student struggles with. Contact us today to schedule a free trial lesson! 🚀