Child and teen counsellor Flora Scott shares with Playtimes the importance of emotional intelligence in finding happiness and success.
“How are you?” is often a closed question that leads to a “fine/good/ok” answer, leaving us nowhere to go. Of course, it’s not always the right occasion to launch into a detailed response about the ups and downs of our current emotional state, but in our children it’s essential that we allow for and understand the expression of the whole range of emotions. Research supporting the importance of understanding why emotions matter has been building considerably in recent years.
The evidence shows that our emotional system is inextricably linked with our cognitive system. Further, there is growing evidence that improved emotional intelligence improves relationships, resilience, behaviour, performance, physical health and overall happiness. For example, if you’re being bullied and you arrive at school feeling a mixture of nervousness, fear and anger, it will be difficult to focus your attention on the teaching and learning that should be taking place, let alone to make decisions or solve problems.
Recognising and responding to emotions in ourselves and those around us play a vital role in our relationships with those around us. Losing patience with an irritating team member or dealing with the disappointments of a poor grade can be the difference between success and failure. We don’t usually give up because of a lack of cognitive ability but because of the inability to deal with the feelings around failure.
So how do we go about giving our children space to be their true, feeling selves? As parents, how we respond and react to our children’s emotions is important because it teaches our children how to have healthy relationships with how they feel, from rage to joy, grief to contentment and everything in between. Ignoring and denying our children’s feelings or, at the other end of the scale, overreacting to our children’s feelings, can be harmful in allowing them to feel, express and regulate. When my son started going on the school bus to kindergarten aged three, every day became a struggle when he cried and refused to get on the bus. Shutting down his feelings by saying, “don’t be silly, you’re going and that’s that” only made the problem worse and took us all longer to get to where we needed to be each morning. Respecting and validating his feelings by saying, “this is hard, you really don’t want to go to school today” was easier for him to hear and in the long run has made our mornings easier as he’s learnt to soothe himself more easily when the pressure’s on.
We can encourage this development in all areas of our children’s lives particularly as the increase in screen time and lack of interaction with peers has deprived our children of the experiences that teach emotional and social skills. For young people, having an adult they can talk to who will listen without judgement allows them to be comfortable with all the emotions without letting a feeling get control of them. There is an increasingly loud argument for making emotional literacy part of the school curriculum in an approach that is proactive rather than reactive. At home, moments of emotional intensity can be golden opportunities in which to teach our children how to express their emotions and most importantly, regulate and handle these emotions safely.
Flora Scott is a counsellor at Kennedy School and can also be seen at Central & Stanley Wellness (stanleywellnesscentre.com) by appointment.
This post is sponsored by Central & Stanley Wellness Centre and first appeared in the Spring Edition of Playtimes 2021
Featured image by: Shutterstock
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