Increasingly, it becomes evident the need to raise people who are aware of their emotions, who know how to manage them, and who understand what others are feeling. Our society needs more of these people, who are able to self-regulate and interact with others with empathy and respect - only then can we build a better society!
Several studies have found that people with higher emotional skills are more successful in school, have better relationships, and engage less often in harmful behaviors. In addition, since the more mechanical professions are being replaced by machines, soft skills are being increasingly valued and considered irreplaceable by machines. This means that today's children will need to show even more emotional skills when applying for a job.
These competences have been given a name: Emotional Intelligence (IE), that is, "the ability to monitor our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, to distinguish and label different emotions correctly, and to use emotional information to guide our thinking and behavior and influencing that of others" (Goleman 1995, Mayer and Salovey 1990).
How important is Emotional Intelligence?
An essential aspect that is influenced by IE is mental health. On the one hand, several studies have shown that people with higher IE have fewer psychological pathologies based on emotional disturbances. Examples of these pathologies are depression (David, 2005, Hertel, Schutz, & Lammers, 2009), anxiety (David, 2005, O'Connor and Little, 2003), schizophrenia (Kee et al., 2009), Borderline (Herbert, Schutz, & Lammers, 2009), substance abuse (Hertel, Schutz, & Lammers, 2009) and violent behaviors (Brackett et al, 2004; Mayer et al, 2004).
On the other hand, emotional well-being appears to be correlated with IE, as a study on college students concluded (Brackett & Mayer, 2003; Lopes et al., 2003). In addition, people with high IE seem to also tend to seek psychological help when they need it (Goldenberg, Matheson, & Mantler, 2006).
IE also positively influences academic success, according to several studies (Zeidner, Shani-Zinovich, Matthews, & Roberts, 2005). Students with higher IE seem to have more attention and more positive attitudes about school and teachers. (Rivers et al., 2008).
In interpersonal relationships, IE leads to higher quality relationships (Brackett, Warner, & Bosco, 2005; Brackett et al., 2006a; Lopes, Salovey, Cote', & Beers, 2005; Lopes et al., 2003, 2004), supportive relationships with friends and parents, instead of conflicting and antagonistic relationships (Lopes et al., 2004). In romantic relationships, there also seems to be a positive influence of IE.
What about now?
The question that now arises is: are we educating children and young people accordingly? Not all families are prepared to do so, and not all schools have the capacity to do so also. Moreover, the content that children and young people consume on television and online are not always the most beneficial for developing emotional skills.
This creates a gap between what is needed for a better society and the education that most families and schools have the tools to give. What do we do with this? We find new solutions!
What solutions already exist?
Fortunately, there are already many people around the world working on these issues and creating projects to promote emotional skills in the education of young children. An example is a preventive program for schools called "The RULER Approach", created by Yale University in the United States. This program promotes learning opportunities for students, teachers, principals, and families to develop the skills to recognize, understand, label, express and regulate emotions, to make better decisions, have better relationships, act pro-socially, and feel greater well-being. Classes with this program showed more positive relationships and more respect, more enthusiasm for learning, less bullying among students, and less expressions of anger or frustration among teachers (Reyes et al., 2010).
In Portugal, projects also begin to emerge in and outside schools that promote IE, Positive Education and family well-being. At No Bully Portugal, we also promote these goals in our work with students, teachers, operational assistants and families. We work to create school communities with greater empathy, understanding, cooperation, kindness.
What can each family do?
The interactions within the family and the time spent together are essential for the emotional development of children and young people. So there are some things that all families can do to raise children and young people with greater Emotional Intelligence:
- Talk about emotions in a relaxed way and encourage the younger ones to share what they felt in their day, without being judged
- Watch movies or read books that explore emotions and discuss them - for example, the movie "Inside Mind"
- When young people go through something more intense, promote a conversation in which they can express what they felt and feel supported by adults
- Validate and respect emotions of those who feel angry or sad, giving them time to process the same
- Share with the newest experiences you've had at their age, with which they can identify
- If an adult in the family has a more extreme or inappropriate reaction, look for a moment to admit it and apologize to others
- Take a deep breath whenever the emotions are exploding! It is the best solution to avoid huge discussions and conflicts
We leave you with these little tips that, in the long run, will undoubtedly make a huge difference!
Learn more about Bright Concept Emotional Intelligence programs here.