Emotional Intelligence

Andrew Silva, 15 Dec 2016
We have all heard of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) but have you heard of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)? EQ is the set of skills involved in communication and relating to others.  It is about knowing and being aware of your emotions, recognising how to calm down when you are upset or angry, interacting with others in a constructive way and having the ability to develop positive rapport with people around you and being able to read their body language as well as being able to read and process the environment around them.  It is basically, being resilient. We want our children to develop their resilience as this helps them adjust with transitions, the big one being, transition to school.  To understand why emotional intelligence is so important, we need to look more closely at what it actually is. Let’s start with emotional intensity.  Children with high emotional intensity are more cautious with new experiences, environments and people.  They show dramatic displays of anger and sadness while children with low emotional intensity are more quiet and do not seem to fuss over many things.  They show more interest when emotional changes are more intense.  For children who are emotionally intense, try to empathise with their feelings.  Suggest appropriate ways to express their emotions, for example; “I can see you are angry.  Remember that teeth are not for biting.  Come help me clean the table instead”.  Provide children the opportunity to calm down and speak to him/her afterwards when he/she is not emotionally charged.  Give them time to articulate their feelings. Then there is sociability.  Children with high sociability smile at new people, do not mind engaging in large groups and are somewhat independent.  Children with low sociability show signs of not being able to engage with children in large groups and tend to seek one other child to play with.  They stay close to play with familiar adults and do not interact easily with new people unless they feel safe and secure.  It is important to encourage children to sit and engage in quiet activities on their own and provide children to warm up to new people and spaces at their own pace. Adaptability is also an important characteristic of EQ.  It is important we, adults, make children’s world challenging but also predictable to help children feel more in control of their day which makes children feel confident and therefore be able to calmly move from one transition to another.  This can be achieved with an established routine and also by advising them when there is a change to the regular routine. When children are persistent, they can wait patiently, show their emotions effectively while children with low persistence seem to require comfort immediately when feeling upset and require constant reassurance.  It is important for children that an explanation of what they are doing and is expected prior to an event.  Commentate what you are doing for the and comment on their progress towards their goal/s; for example, you are working hard on that puzzle, you’ve nearly completed it” or if they are having trouble offer assistance “try turning the piece around and see what happens”.  If children are finding tasks too complicated, help them break is up into smaller, manageable tasks. Emotions are an important part of children’s everyday lives.  It is a valuable skill that can be improved overtime through support.  Research shows that supportive and protective factors can actually offset negative effects of the risk factors that may impact a person’s life.  Like all developmental factors, the earlier we have access to support networks, the better the outcome.  So our role in all this is to be aware of children’s different levels of emotional intelligence, to foster through resources as well as modelling socially appropriate ways to show emotions and to be responsive and sensitive to how we guide and nurture them.  See below for the development trend for different age groups:
  • Seeking contact from their educators for emotional comfort.
  • Distress at separation
  • Developing different ways to communicate their needs; verbal and non-verbal
  • Showing ability to soothe self by sucking thumb, seeking a comforter etc.
  • Possessive behaviour towards toys
  • Increasing recognition of self in mirror and use of “I” and “me.
  • Some children have multiple attachments and move easily from one person to another. Others may only have one strong attachment and strongly protest when their attachment figure is no longer visible.
  • Cultures that stress individualism encourage small children to express all their feelings.  Collectivist cultures that place harmony discourage
  • Model appropriate emotions and try and remain calm.
  • Be responsive and sensitive to the needs of infants they are learning to trust you.
  • Talk to the families and work with them in forming positive attachments.  Learn some every day words in the child’s life.
  • Take the infant’s separation seriously.  Give them and their families plenty of reassurance.
  • Desire to be close to parents when afraid, hurt or upset.
  • Wide variety of emotions
  • Emergence of self-consciousness
  • Have a sense of personal unique characteristics
  • -       Optimism about tasks and achievements.
  • Children vary in the number of close attachment.  Children may find reassurance in their educators and either cling to them most of the day or confidently explore their learning environment.
  • Children vary in how they express their emotions.
  • Realise that young children may initially be cautious of fearful in a new classroom or other group situation.
  • Be patient in establishing relationships and attachments. 
  • Show and model ways of handling emotions and encourage children to articulate how they are feeling and why they may be feeling that way.

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