DEVELOPING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE OF CHILDREN IN THEIR EARLY YEARS
WHAT IS AN EMOTIONAL QUOTIENT AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions and understand the emotions the others. A high EQ helps you to build relationships, reduce team stress, defuse conflict and improve job satisfaction.
The way your child identifies understands, and manages emotions can have an impact on everything from his or her relationships with classmates to performance in the classroom.
Emotional intelligence involves:
Recognize your own feelings and the feelings of others.
Being able to control your emotions effectively.
Understanding and sharing the feelings of others.
Pushing yourself to meet the goals you have set.
PROMINENT EMOTIONS OF CHILDREN:
Emotions do not all emerge at the same time. Primary emotions (e.g., fear, anger, sadness, interest, and joy) appear in the first year whereas secondary emotions (e.g., embarrassment, guilt, and shame) are usually expressed by the end of the 2nd year of life.
As they grow they become EGO CENTRIC, Throw tantrums, Separation Anxiety,
Along with environmental factors, emotional competence is also influenced by child factors including cognitive development, temperament, and approach/withdrawal behaviours. Approach refers to behaviours and facial expressions that move a child towards stimuli. Withdrawal refers to behaviours that move a child away from stimuli. Approach emotions (i.e., interest, smiling, joy, and anger) are related to positive aspects of behaviours, such as sustained efforts when minor difficulties are encountered, and they predict emotional competence in children. In contrast, the expression of withdrawal emotions (i.e., sadness and fear) in face of negative events is associated with behavioural difficulties, poor emotion regulation, and helplessness. Withdrawal behaviours are also a risk factor for childhood depression.
Emotions play an important role in the onset of psychopathologies in childhood. Children with a history of negative social experiences, such as maltreatment or insecure attachment, have a tendency to be hyper-vigilant for signs of threats. Accordingly, they display anxiety, and aggressive and fear behaviours as a means of self-protection. Their negative affectivity, poor emotion regulation, and imbalances in the different emotional systems in the brain (e.g., the fear, the care, the seeking systems) predict both internalizing and externalizing disorders (e.g., depression and aggression, respectively).
DIFFERENT STAGES OF EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT- ERIK ERIKSON
Trust Vs. Mistrust (0-1 years)
Erikson claimed that in this stage the child will develop a sense of basic trust in the world and in his ability to affect events around him. The development of this depends on the consistency of the child’s major caregiver. If the care the child receives is consistent, predictable and reliable then the child will develop a sense of trust which he will carry with him to other relationships, and is able to feel secure even when threatened. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of hope.
However, if the care has been harsh or inconsistent, unpredictable and unreliable then the child will develop a sense of mistrust and will not have confidence in the world around them or in their abilities to influence events. This child will carry the basic sense of mistrust with him to other relationships. It may result in anxiety, heightened insecurities, and an over feeling of mistrust in the world around them.
2. Autonomy Vs. Shame and Doubt (2 – 3 years)
The child is developing physically and becoming more mobile. Between the ages of one and three, children begin to assert their independence, by walking away from their mother, picking which toy to play with, and making choices about what they like to wear, to eat, etc.
Erikson says that this is the point at which the child can develop a certain amount of independence/autonomy. It is at this stage that the child needs support from parents so that repeated failures and ridicule are not the only experiences encountered. So, the parents need to encourage the child to becoming more independent whilst at the same time protecting the child so that constant failure is avoided.
A delicate balance is required from the parent …. they must try not to do everything for the child but if the child fails at a particular task they must not criticize the child for failures and accidents (particularly when toilet training). The aim has to be “self control without a loss of self-esteem” (Gross, 1993). Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of will.
If children in this stage are encouraged and supported in their increased independence, they become more confident and secure in their own ability to survive in the world. If children are criticized, overly controlled, or not given the opportunity to assert themselves, they begin to feel inadequate in their ability to survive, and may then become overly dependent upon others, lack self-esteem, and feel a sense of shame or doubt in their own abilities.
3. Initiative Vs. Guilt (3 – 5 years)
These are particularly lively, rapid-developing years in a child’s life. According to Bee (1992) it is a “time of vigor of action and of behaviors that the parents may see as aggressive”. The child takes initiatives which the parents will often try to stop in order to protect the child. The child will often overstep the mark in his forcefulness and the danger is that the parents will tend to punish the child and restrict his initiatives too much.
Around age three and continuing to age six, children assert themselves more frequently. They begin to plan activities, make up games, and initiate activities with others. If given this opportunity, children develop a sense of initiative, and feel secure in their ability to lead others and make decisions. Conversely, if this tendency is squelched, either through criticism or control, children develop a sense of guilt. They may feel like a nuisance to others and will therefore remain followers, lacking in self-initiative.
It is at this stage that the child will begin to ask many questions as to his thirst for knowledge grows. If the parents treat the child’s questions as trivial, a nuisance, or embarrassing, or other aspects of their behavior as threatening then the child may have feelings of guilt for “being a nuisance”.
Too much guilt can make the child slow to interact with others and may inhibit their creativity. Some guilt is, of course, necessary otherwise the child would not know how to exercise self-control or have a conscience. A healthy balance between initiative and guilt is important. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of purpose.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN EARLY YEARS
Early childhood experiences are crucial to emotional health. The importance of primary attachment and bonding to a parent or carer in the first twelve months of a child’s life is well researched and documented – it establishes initial trust and security as well as builds a foundation for future emotional development.
Ongoing family experiences generally remain the most influential factors impacting younger children. Family events such as sickness, unemployment, loss, and family breakdown can have devastating effects, especially if the child perceives a threat to the maintenance of the family unit itself.
Experiences such as “connectedness” with the school and teacher, feeling nurtured and supported by the school environment, being able to join with peers and keeping up with classwork all contribute to self-esteem, which in turn reduces ambiguity or uncertainty.
Problems in one area may and often do affect security in another, although occasionally a non-assertive child may camouflage their emotional stress particularly if he or she is a compliant student. Usually, the child does show some behavioural signals that suggest an emotional problem.
Apart from family and school, there are a number of other factors that contribute to the emotional development of young children. These include biological makeup, outside social and sporting interactions, and modern communications such as computers and television.
As children grow older, these influences continue to be significant especially those most closely associated with self-image and the need for greater individualization such as teenage fashion and pop culture. This situation is compounded by the increasing pressure on young people as a marketable commodity in our consumer-driven society.
A young person who has developed emotional resilience during childhood is in an advantageous position to work through the challenges of later years.
HOW CAN PARENTS AND TEACHERS HELP CCHILDREN TO DIFFERENTIATE EMOTIONS?
The early years are crucial for your child’s development. It is during this time that they learn about how the world around them works. Along with their new discoveries, they also learn a lot about their feelings and how to express them in the appropriate manner. In this article, we share with you the 5 Ways to Help Children Identify and Express their Emotions
Throughout this learning journey, things can get overwhelming for young children who are trying to understand the complexities of emotions. As a result, they may vent their frustrations through emotional outbursts or have a hard time calming down. Although you may find this situation challenging, know that it is all part of your child’s learning experience.
Here are 5 ways to help your children learn and understand their emotions better:
1. Name the feeling
The different feelings that your children go through daily may be foreign to them at first, but you can help them out by naming those feelings appropriately. For example, you could say, “Mummy has to go to work, and you are sad to say goodbye” or “You were angry that your friend snatched your favourite toy”. You can also use picture books or videos to point out the various emotions of the story’s characters to your child.
When you teach your child to name feelings when they occur, your child will build an emotional vocabulary over time and get to the point where they are able to identify those feelings and talk to
you about them. This will then help them learn the basics of expressing their feelings appropriately.
2. Talk about how feelings can be expressed
The best way to teach your children to express their feelings is to set a good example yourself. Start by talking about your own feelings and describe how to best express those feelings. You can also create opportunities for your child to come up with solutions for various situations, and then discuss why they are or are not appropriate.
3. Offer a deep nurturing connection
While babies are soothed by their parents, toddlers and pre-schoolers need to bond and feel connected to mum and dad in order to regulate and deal with their emotions. Thus, when you notice your child getting upset or overwhelmed, the best thing you can do for him/her is to reconnect. This helps you see things from your child’s perspective. This helps you understand the reason behind their meltdowns and allows you to respond appropriately. In fact, experts highly recommend that we hug our children when the going gets rough, as this has shown to do wonders in regulating their emotions.
4. Resist the urge to punish
One of the 5 Ways to Help Children Identify and Express their Emotions is resisting the urge to punish them. Discipline methods such as spankings, timeouts, giving consequences and shaming are often used to correct children’s misbehaviours, but these do nothing to help them deal with their emotions. By resorting to these methods, children get the message that their “bad” emotions are to be blamed for their misbehaviours. As a result, they try to bottle their emotions until they get to a point where it “overflows” one day through a meltdown episode.
Instead of using punishment, do help your child to process and manage their emotions in positive ways. You should do that until they are able to handle it all by themselves. Leading through good example can include speaking in a proper tone of voice and not yelling. Giving them activities that allow them to express their emotions can include drawing and shaping with playdough. These two can go a long way to help both of you get there.
5. Praise and practice – often!
Give praises to your child whenever he/she talks about his/her feelings. This brings across the message that he/she did the right thing and that you are proud of him/her for reaching out to you and talk about feelings.
Children should know that it is perfectly fine to express what we feel. They should also be given ample opportunities to respond to their feelings in appropriate ways. You can play your part in this aspect by practicing strategies that will help your child express his/her emotions in various situations. For example, you can talk about feelings and coping strategies during dinner, a play date or while grocery shopping. Through the series of events that unfold in each situation, there will be opportunities for your child to express and deal with his/her feelings when interacting with others. The more your children get to do this, the faster they will learn to regulate their emotions independently.
PARENTS AND TEACHERS ON REGULATING CHILD’S EMOTIONS
Here are some ways you can help your child learn to manage emotions:
Talk about emotions with your child, and encourage them to recognise and label their emotions. You can also let your child know that it’s natural to have all sorts of feelings. For example, ‘It looks like you’re really frustrated that your toy won’t work. I can understand that’.
Role-model a positive outlook for your child – for example, ‘Running all the way around the oval looks hard, but I think I can do it if I take it slow and steady’, or ‘I’m disappointed that my cake didn’t cook properly, but that’s OK – I’ll try it again another time’.
Support your child when something is bothering them. For example, if your child is having trouble with friends at school, you could give your child plenty of hugs and reassure them that you’re there for them. And you could work with the teacher on a plan to handle the situation.
Help your child learn to manage small worries so they don’t become big problems. You can do this by gently encouraging your child to do things they’re anxious about instead of avoiding scary situations. For example, ‘Have you thought about trying out for the school choir this year? You really enjoy singing’.
Mindfulness practices help a lot in the ability of children to be more conscious of their emotions, control them and stay focused.
Source of this article: Internet