One of the greatest thinkers in history, Jean Jacques Rousseau, once said that “children have their own way of seeing, thinking, and feeling. There’s nothing more foolish than trying to substitute them for our own.” In saying that, Rousseau was touching on the importance of teaching children about emotions, which are very different for them than they are for adults.
Proper emotional education must adapt to the child’s needs, stage of development, and manner of thinking and feeling. If we really want to raise independent and happy children, we have to be responsive to their reality.
The importance of emotional education
Many parents know how important it is for their children to be able to properly express their emotions. But they also must learn to understand them, interpret them, and accept them as a part of their life and their world.
Logically, every child needs a level of emotional intelligence that will help them bond and connect with the people they love. This will bring them more well-being, happiness, autonomy, and responsibility.
But how do we raise emotionally intelligent children? To answer this question, we’re going to turn to some tips from professor Esther García, graduate professor of emotional intelligence at the University of Barcelona.
Tips for emotional education
According to professor García, interpersonal relationships are basic factors that affect emotional well-being. The happiness of both children and adults depends on their ability to develop skills related to emotional intelligence in their relationships.
Professor García’s first suggestion for raising emotionally intelligent children is awareness. Both the parent and the child should understand their emotions, the consequences of them, and how to process them.
To raise your own awareness, ask yourself questions about your feelings: why you feel them, how they arose, and what you can do to remedy or get the most out of them. Only then will you be able to verbalize and define them, so that your children can learn to carry out the process themselves.
The second important tip is related to the management of emotions. Once you’ve identified and understood them, you have to know how to manage them. Whether they’re positive or negative, you have to put a name to them so that you can pinpoint and verbalize them.
When you’ve reached that point, it’s time to accept your emotions, because they’re legitimate and personal. At this point, it becomes necessary to work on the resulting behavior. That way, you can help your children hold back from acting impulsively, compulsively, or flippantly.
In order to teach children how to recognize and manage their emotions and be more emotionally intelligent, you need constant empathy. You have to know how they’re feeling and what mechanisms they have at their age to channel this huge wave of emotions and feelings, which tend to be quite fickle and difficult to control.
Connect with your child, understand their actions, try to put yourself in their shoes, and always address them with empathy, patience, and understanding. Remember that what might be trivial to you could be a huge issue for them. Always show them respect and create an environment where you can establish healthy communication.
How to practice teaching children about emotions
Here are some main takeaways from the activities that professor García recommends to properly educate children about emotions:
- Create emotionally expressive drawings and paintings.
- Write an emotion diary.
- Imitate emotions.
- Identify emotions and motivations simultaneously.
- Read texts and stories that allow them to identify emotions.
- Listen to or play a musical instrument or sing a song.
- Play a game that helps improve communication and manage frustration.
- Give them physical contact.
Children’s happiness and well-being depends largely on whether they receive a proper emotional education. If they learn how to live with their emotions and feelings more than with their possessions, they’ll grow up to be happier, more complete, more autonomous, and more responsible, which will benefit both them and those around them.