NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Teaching Children about Emotions

Teaching Children about Emotions


Emotional intelligence is a relatively new psychological concept, but it is backed by years of research. This kind of intelligence enables people to have positive interactions with others, to predict others’ thoughts and feelings, and to engage in appropriate levels of empathy.

 What constitutes emotional intelligence?

  • Ability to persist in the face of difficulty
  • Ability to monitor one's feelings
  • Ability to read others' feelings
  • Ability to get along with others
  • Ability to resist temptation in the service of a higher goal
  • Ability to take action that considers the needs of self and others
  •  Emotional intelligence is strongly correlated with career and academic success because emotionally intelligent people earn the trust of their superiors, make colleagues feel valued, and attract admirers wherever they go. Like other forms of intelligence, early experiences and direct teaching can help children master the fine art of relating to other people.

    Following are a few ideas of what you can do to help a child learn this valuable skill.

    • Empathize with your child. Try to understand what they are feeling and why.

    • Help your child build up their emotional vocabulary. Help them to label their emotions using more than only “mad,” “sad,” and “happy.”

    • Let your child know that their emotions are important to you. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings. Ask them how they feel and why. Show them that their feelings are understood.

    • Deal with bad behavior if necessary. Help them to un­derstand that their emotions are okay, but that there are rules about how they should behave even when feeling a negative emotion.

    • Problem-solve with them. Help them to get to the root of their emotions. Encourage them to come up with solu­tions to the problem or ways to prevent similar problems in the future.

    Active listening is an important component in teaching emotional intelligence. It requires not just that you listen to your child, but that you give feedback such as, “I can see you’re really angry right now” or “How did it make you feel when Julie said that?” Active listeners tend to have better social skills, so this listening style models a valuable behavior to your child.

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