Emotional Intelligence is the term developed in the 1990s by Dr. Daniel Goleman that refers to the sum of feelings, thinking and emotions that go on inside of us (Goleman, 2008). The more we understand how our feelings and thinking effects our emotions and actions the more “emotional Intelligent” we can become.
Children and adults who have gone through trauma may understandably have a heightened sense of danger and can interpret seemingly harmless words and actions as danger and act on their emotions. It is important for both the children and adults to understand themselves, in order to better interact with others.
Emotional Intelligence has two main parts, self-awareness and social awareness. The caretaker can help themselves and the child improve both of these areas to help them be more regulated in their emotions.
The key to teaching children to regulate their own emotions is to model empathy and calm.
- Notice your body and emotions. Without judging yourself, how does your body feel when you are stressed, happy, tired or angry?
- Identify what makes you upset and what helps you calm and think of ways that will get you back to a calm state when you are upset. When you can calm yourself, you can think more clearly and make better decisions instead of reacting to what is going on around you.
- Empathy is the ability to understand how another person may feel in their own circumstances. To practice empathy, get curious. Ask questions and be attentive to the other person to see if you can pick up on how they might be feeling to get outside of your own viewpoint.
To help a child in your care with emotional intelligence, stay calm and stay present when they are feeling big emotions.
- Remember big reactive emotions like anger are usually a defense against thoughts of fear or hurt.
- Model empathy by acknowledging their feelings and letting them know feelings are ok and sometimes we need to let them just roll over us.
- Repeat back to the child what they said to help them sort their feelings and feel heard.
“You seem really angry because your friend won’t talk to you?”
- Try to keep them talking. “Tell me more”. This helps a child calm and put words to their emotions.
- Make daily habits of helping a child to practice empathy. This could be a game by pointing out people or animals and asking the child what emotion they think that person or animal is feeling right now based on their facial expressions or circumstances.
A higher emotional intelligence allows caregivers and children to be aware of their own emotions and those of others and be slower to react and find more positive ways to interact with others.
Goleman, D. (2008). Building Emotional Intelligence. Boulder, CO. Sounds True Inc.