The development of emotional intelligence in children is a basic aspect of their maturity. Strategies to develop emotional intelligence in children allow them to be prepared for the real circumstances they will face in the future, to give appropriate emotional responses in different circumstances.
Throughout their educational process, we can encourage appropriate emotional responses if we help them to develop a correct emotional intelligence. Both in schools and through activities at home, we can reinforce their emotional skills and their ability to express them.
The development of emotional competencies in children
Primary school is a crucial stage in a child’s education. From the age of six to eleven, a person learns to manage and express his or her feelings, through assertive and empathic behaviors.
In this period, emotional learning takes place essentially through real experiences, which teach them the appropriate emotional expression in each moment. Situations that cause them sadness, excitement, fear or joy allow them, on a continuous basis, to express their emotions in real situations, however, sometimes these responses are not completely adequate, are exaggerated or are not expressed at all.
The environment itself is what children of this age use for their emotional learning, however, in some cases it is not enough to get them to express their feelings, both positive and negative. Developing the emotional intelligence of primary school children should include practical exercises that allow them to prepare for real situations in the future.
In this sense, it is also important to point out that our emotional reactions as adults depend to a great extent on what we have learned during these years. This does not mean that during adulthood we cannot learn to manage our emotions, but most of the emotional responses we develop are due to our experiences during the early stages of our lives.
Strategies for developing emotional intelligence, understanding, assertiveness and empathy
Emotional management includes different aspects that have to do with both our own and others’ emotions; however, this process can be divided into three main concepts: understanding emotions, assertiveness and empathy with others’ emotions. The processes on how to develop emotional intelligence in children should be directed towards these three objectives.
Emotional understanding is a bidirectional process, since it includes both the identification of one’s own emotions and the interpretation of the emotions of others.
To encourage emotional expression, the most appropriate process is based on dialogue, the objective is for the child to express what he or she feels and his or her interpretation of what others feel.
Exercises in which the child must identify emotions, or games based on expressing what he feels through mimicry, allow encouraging this type of non-verbal expression, which will be important when he must understand his own and other people’s feelings in real situations.
Assertiveness is the ability to express an emotion or opinion correctly, whose objective is to reaffirm a personal idea, without subjugating the opinions of others.
There are three attitudes towards the expression of one’s own emotions: passivity, aggressiveness and assertiveness. Passivity when expressing emotional feelings leads to repression, a person who is not able to express his feelings will develop emotional problems, so it is important that from the early stages of development, the child learns to express his feelings avoiding repression.
Aggressiveness tries to impose a point of view. In the case of emotions, it is an exaggeration when expressing a series of feelings that can intimidate other people. Assertiveness is the middle ground, and it is what we should look for from an early age, that is, the child must have the ability to express himself emotionally in a balanced and appropriate way for each situation.
Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the place of another person. In this case, what we are looking for is to be able to identify other people’s emotions and respond based on other people’s feelings.
We usually identify emotional intelligence with personal management skills, however, it is also very important that a child learns to interpret other people’s emotions and act accordingly.
Games based on understanding other people’s emotions are very useful, for example, we can create our own scrapbook with facial expressions in which emotions such as joy, sadness, fear, illusion, etc., are recognized.
Understanding and expressing
Emotional management begins at birth, however, it is from the age of two that a child begins to learn the social conventions of emotion management. From this age, a child has tools that allow him or her to understand his or her own emotions as well as those of others, and can express his or her own emotions.
One of the main objectives regarding children’s emotional expression is that they are able to act according to the emotional issues they perceive every day. Assertiveness regarding his own feelings and empathy, referring to other people’s feelings, are two concepts that he will learn throughout the primary school years, and that will allow him to develop emotionally when he reaches adulthood.
Understanding and expressing feelings are two qualities that can be improved through the practice of games and activities, both at home and at school. The strategies to develop emotional intelligence in children are based on hypothetical situations, with which we can perfect their emotional response, this practice is useful for real situations in which it is necessary for the child to be empathetic, or to express their emotions correctly through assertive behaviors.
Understanding and expressing emotions is very important during their childhood and will be very important during their adulthood. At Aravaca International we know the importance of emotional learning, especially during the primary school years, that is why our educational programs insist on teaching emotional competencies from an early age.