A different kind of summer school: Teaching kids emotional intelligence skills
Reading, writing, (self) reflection. Wait, what?
Summertime is a great time to help your kids improve in areas where they struggle academically…but it’s also the perfect time to help your child better identify, label and respond to the way they feel in different situations — an area known as Emotional IQ, or EQ.
EQ is the ability to notice one’s own and other people’s emotions and tell the difference between them; it can reduce anxiety and stress, encourage healthy choice making, improve overall quality of life and predict future success in relationships. When your child can stop and think before acting or understand how their current mood affects their thoughts and decision making, EQ provides the information needed to properly guide their thinking and behavior.
But can EQ really be taught? From our team at Community Care Services and other experts around the world, the answer is a resounding YES! Here are some simple ways to help your child improve their EQ to help them better manage their emotions, now and in the future.
One way to work together on EQ is by focusing on a skill known as “active listening,” which creates a two-way conversation between you and your child and show you understand their point of view and care about it.
For example: If your child expresses anger while working in a math workbook, you can demonstrate active listening by saying, “I can see you’re angry because you wish that math was easier for you.” This allows your child to reflect on their emotions and agree or disagree, helping them to better identify and express their emotions while also knowing you understand how they are feeling.
Another type of EQ is understanding negative self-talk. Say your teen flunks an important history test and insists they are stupid, then admits that he didn’t really study for the test because he isn’t doing well in the subject anyway “so there’s no point in even trying.”
Negative self-talk like this leads to depression and can trigger anxiety and panic attacks. Helping your child choose to use positive self-talk challenges negative thinking by replacing unhelpful thinking with encouraging statements, such as, “We don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we face challenges.” Understanding this helps us to gain control over how we feel and change future outcomes, and offering options that promote choice and acceptance help your teen better handle those feelings and aids them in decision making.
Finally, you can also promote EQ by offering experiences that teach mindfulness and foster reflection. Exposure to spiritual or educational environments like church, natural history or cultural history museums can encourage deep reflection and conversations about morals. Teens can also benefit from activities that encourage relaxation like going to the beach or park, or learning yoga and meditation.
By taking the time this summer to help your child focus on improving their EQ, you’re setting the stage not only for a more positive school year but a more positive future as well.
About the author: Laura Boros MA LLP has been a master-level psychologist in the downriver area for the past 14 years and has been with Community Care Services since 2014 where she currently serves as the School-Based Coordinator.