Understanding Social-Emotional Intelligence and How to Strengthen This Skill in Your Child

It is a known fact that emotional handling is something that young children don’t come fully equipped with. This is a slow but very important process of a child’s growth that can decide future attitudes, temperament, and several other crucial factors. These factors can prove to be life-altering.

Therefore being there for your child and helping them strengthen their social and emotional skills is very crucial.

A crucial part of social-emotional learning involves teaching kids to control and self-regulate how they feel. Having a child that is all over the place or not involved at all are important signs that must not be ignored. 

Understanding Social-Emotional Intelligence and How to Strengthen This Skill in Your Child

Do Children Even Understand Emotions Well?

A lot of people think that young children do not understand how emotions work. A few even think that certain factors of emotional intelligence, such as maturity and social and emotional learning only come with time.

However, no one stops to consider the fact that maybe they have perceived this incorrectly. Children are sensitive and have great attention to detail. Children learn and pick up emotions that even you might not be able to in certain situations.

Recently, I had a video conference with my daughter’s school teacher, Mrs. Meg. The conversation was very pleasant, and I, for once, thought that this teacher was having a great day. It is already hard enough to read body language through a camera, but due to the pandemic, this is something that all of us have had to get used to.

Just when the conversation was about to end, my daughter very lovingly asked Mrs. Meg, “Are you okay, Mrs. Meg?” she responded by saying that she was fine.

The next day I found out from one of the other mums that Mrs. Meg’s father had been diagnosed with cancer and that she had indeed been worked up. I was quite boggled that I did not sense any negative vibe from Mrs. Meg, but my little daughter saw right through her without batting an eyelid. 

It made me want to think about leveling up my relationship skills.

Do We Give Less Credit To Their Emotional Intelligence?

Looking at my child’s social skills, got me thinking deeply. It got me thinking about how sensitive kids are, how less we give credit to their emotional intelligence, and how we almost every time dismiss the weird and uncomfortable questions asked by them.

If anything, we as parents might have been responsible for reducing our child’s social-emotional intelligence by deciding that they are too young for managing emotions. We might have unknowingly even prevented them from exploring what positive relationships are due to all the unnecessary meddling. We fear and underestimate our children’s growth mindset so much that it may be causing more damage than help. Children have way more social competence than we give them credit for. More than one child can be capable of understanding and leading their own progress as well as indulge in responsible decision making. Whether it is kindergarten students, middle school students, high school students, or older students, students learn only when they are given opportunities. As parents, what would help is if you give your children a chance.

Do They Know How To Manage Their Emotions Well?

Even though they may be intelligent enough to sense, very few are equipped to know how to manage emotions perfectly well.

Moreover, while children are excellent at sensing something, they don’t always know what exact emotion that is. This causes a lot of confusion and mix-up in their minds on how to perceive something.

It also does not give them proper clarity on how they must react. Kids learn this only after they turn 10 that they look towards using complex strategies to promote social and emotional regulation. But for them to even begin creating strategies, you should help them set up camp by integrating social-emotional learning.

It is through your advice in these early ages that they will slowly start paying attention, applying these strategies, personalizing them, and finally implementing them in ways that will benefit them in building their social and emotional skills. 

SEL discussion with child

What Is Emotional Self-Regulation?

Emotional self-regulation is the ability to manage one’s expression and interpretation of emotions. Through guidance and observation, kids learn strategies to help cope with these emotions.

A simple example is how a child may perceive a loud noise. They will be clueless as to how to respond to this when they experience it for the first time.

But by understanding and trying a few things, they eventually understand that cupping their ears is something that can help muffle a loud sound. This is exactly how kids develop to perceive new emotions and create strategies as they go.

Our job as parents is to teach kids how to approach a problem, try to solve it, and if they are unable to do so, then how to cope with it so you can move on.

Since the initial years of the child are the most impactful, teaching this to them right from the start can eventually result in increasing your child’s awareness, understanding, and ability to express and compose themselves. 

Self-Control: A Part Of Emotional Intelligence

Knowing how to control every emotion and not letting them lose focus or lose direction is also important. When you teach your child how to control certain urges and not let anything dampen their plans, you are preparing them for what they will eventually be facing out there in the practical world.

When parents don’t teach self-awareness and self-control to children, they often grow up and find themselves in murky waters when they find it hard to control emotions.

Many slip into depression. Many find it hard to maintain positive relationships, to concentrate, to be punctual, to stick to a plan, or very easily lose focus. By addressing this from a young age, you are pushing them to explore strategies and keep working on them until they master social awareness and emotional learning.

Now while we have understood the theory and importance of social awareness, the next aspect to know is helpful steps towards increasing your child’s social-emotional intelligence. After covering this, we will look into teaching social-emotional skills that can help with this.

Here are some helpful ways through which you can help increase your child’s emotional intelligence.:

Taking Efforts To Pay Attention: A Crucial Step To Support Social-Emotional Learning

First and foremost, please take the time to actively listen to your child. This is very crucial for social-emotional learning. Very often, we tend to come to conclusions without bothering to get into the depths of the actual topic.

Lending an ear that is free from bias and any other preconceived notion is what will eventually help you understand what exactly is going on.

As the conversation goes on, remind your child that you are all ears and are making all efforts to understand them.

Letting them know about positive self-talk and that they did the right thing by discussing something with you is also a good way to go.

This empowers them and will help encourage them to approach you more often. If your child feels like you are distracted or not invested in the conversation, there are good chances that they will think that their thoughts and feelings are not welcome or thought of.

They might look at themselves as a form of burden and would feel guilty of sharing anything at all with you. As the conversation goes on, clean your mind slate and allow new information to sink in.

Do not in any way use words and sentences that discourage them from approaching you again in the future.

If your child feels welcome during such conversations, chances are this will turn into a family ritual, and they will consider you as their confidant. 

Grabbing Emotional Instances As Opportunities

It is understandable that as parents, especially new, we may tend to look at such episodes as overwhelming and rightly so. It is not easy to look at every instance as an opportunity.

But the fact of the matter is that such instances are real opportunities for you to bond with your child and build healthy relationships with them.

Help Them Establish Their Support System

During such times, your child looks up to you for support, and watching you pay attention to them and guide them through these feelings is the best thing you can do.

Play games with them. This will also establish their support system. They will feel free to be themselves with you.

Not just that, you can use these moments to teach them the importance of understanding and regulating these emotions. It will take a while, for sure.

However, there will be an improvement and real understanding slowly but surely. During such moments you can indulge in the social and emotional activities we will be recommending in a bit. The goal is to use such instances to be a mentor and a life teacher.

Certain values and lessons can only be taught best by parents. Since you are the most important and influential person in their life, it is your responsibility to look at this as a wonderful opportunity.

Use these social emotional activities to not only teach but connect and bond with your child at an important level.

Stay Attentive To Your Child’s Emotional Levels And Signs

Whenever a child acts out intensely, be sure that this is something that has been stirring in them for a while. No child or even adult, for that matter, acts out intensely in the first go. It is only when a build-up of emotions or situations that have upset you that you end up having a meltdown.

Be Aware

Staying aware and keeping an eye on how your child is responding or behaving in the day-to-day activities is the key to developing their social-emotional skills. Their facial expressions say a lot of things.

Take Time To Talk To Them Every Day

When you spend time talking and finding out about your child’s day, you also understand patterns. With time and more discussions, you will automatically start understanding what makes your child tick and how this affects their day-to-day activities.

It is through daily conversations that you will be able to pick up or understand when something seems to be off with your child. You can help them come out of challenging situations. Just a few minutes matter!

Encourage Kids To Share

When you sense this, take time to immediately encourage your child to share. By doing this, they will be relieving themselves way before things pile up and result in a major spat or a meltdown episode. When you do this, your child will slowly, with time, understand how to catch themselves when they feel off, talk about it, and feel relieved.

Once you encourage some fixed activities to help them feel better internally, they will eventually start indulging in the same or similar kinds of activities to help calm down.

Help Your Child Recognize What They Feel – A Crucial Step Towards Developing Social and Emotional Skills

One of the most underrated things about emotional handling is mislabeling emotions. Half the time, we confuse anger with irritation, jealousy with a phase, or sadness with silliness. Instead of brushing off instances or asking your child to let it go, take time to help them with positive feedback and understand what they are feeling.

Human beings can feel dozens of emotions, but half the time, we dismiss how we feel or confuse them with something else.

When you feel a certain type of feeling, sit them down and ask them more about how they feel. Go one step further by even giving them examples of what emotions result in what kinds of actions. Teach them ways they can express themselves during every emotion.

Help them with a set of vocabulary words, sentences, or actions that can even help you recognize how they feel. This will not only help you know how your child has been feeling but also help them understand what emotion stands for what kind of actions or words.

Research suggests, when your child is alright and in a good mood, you can indulge in some fun reading, playing games or activities that will help your child understand different emotions and develop social-emotional skills

Establish Boundaries 

Positive self-talk and communication with your child on his or her own emotions is a great way. However, there is a fine line between experiencing emotions and reacting. It is okay to feel things. What is not okay is bad behavior.

Okay, Or Not Okay?

In the process of your child learning about their feelings and reactions, you must make sure they know what is okay and what is not.

While it is okay to forgive once, that is all that you should allow. That one time, they behave in a bad manner. As parents, you must never forget to maintain boundaries. It can be a very emotional moment for you when you watch your child go through hurt and act out, but part of the lesson of learning is to draw strict boundaries.

They must know what kind of reaction is acceptable and what is not. Here is a social-emotional learning example, when it comes to anger, you can talk about the calm down corner, or you can teach them through colorful cards or games reactions of what is okay.

Setting Up Red And Green Cards Works

You could create a set of green and red cards to symbolize what kind of reaction is good (green) or what reactions are bad (red).

Red Card Options

In this case, the red set could have reactions such as screaming, shouting, stomping, using offensive words, being mean, hitting, bullying, breaking anything, etc.

Green Card Options

In the green setting, you can add reactions such as taking a time out, taking deep breaths, joint music-making, counting down from 100 to 1, asking for space, watching a funny video, reading a book, playing board games, online learning, etc.

The goal is to help them understand behaviors that are healthy and acceptable vs. behaviors that are unhealthy and unacceptable. Understanding this, and choosing what is correct, and increasing social-emotional skills is the ultimate goal.

3 Social-Emotional Learning Activities For Your Child To Increase Emotional Intelligence

Listening Tickets

As mentioned earlier, listening is an important part of helping your child understand their emotions. In this activity, we will work both towards your child and even yourself through the concept of listening tickets. Strengthening emotional intelligence stems from managing your emotions well.

Teaching your child to freely talk about how they feel is the starting step towards increasing emotional intelligence.

It also enables them to build and improve their relationship skills. In this exercise, you and your child will be given 10 listening tickets.

These tickets are to be used when you want to talk about something and want a special time for it.

Once you or your child gets one ticket, it is that person’s responsibility to make time and speak to you about what you are going through.

Listening tickets for your child
Listening tickets for mom and dad
Listening tickets for emotional intelligence exercise

Tip: While doing this as an everyday activity might get overwhelming, mixing up these three activities can help break the monotony and keep it fun for both you and your child.

Daily Emotional Reviewing

Maintaining a diary in which your child writes about how they have felt over the day is also crucial to help increase emotional intelligence. By being aware of emotions and feelings, your child will know themselves better and have more impulse control over how they choose to react.

In this activity, your child will indulge in the daily task of writing about how they have been feeling for the next 12 days.

Daily notes
Daily notes for children and parents

Tip: If you find it hard to do this daily, you can take a break. The goal of this exercise is to get into a habit.

However, if you find your child getting bored of it, a simple conversation with them after they get back from school or are just heading to sleep will be great.

The goal is to attempt to integrate social-emotional learning.

Rewind And Redo

Going over past situations and emotions and sharing your go-to methods is another way of helping your child understand how to cope. To ensure that your child does not feel left out, both you and your child will participate in this activity.

Both you and your child will think of 8 important situations each in life where you felt a negative emotion strongly and how you choose to deal with it.

You will then write them down in the boxes below and share your stories.

Emotions learning with children
Emotional intelligence exercise
Emotional intelligence exercise
Emotional intelligence exercise
Emotional intelligence exercise

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Learn How To Encourage Social-Emotional Learning In Your Child With 5 Powerful Activities! and Not Sure If Your Child Is Getting Enough Social And Emotional Learning?

Yulia

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