Many parents assume that their child’s success in life weighs heavily on classroom success. A’s and B’s, honors courses, accelerated learning programs and grade point averages are important to achieving success, gaining admission to a good college and earning the dream job later in life.
But good grades and academic excellence are only part of the equation. Parents are keyed into the fact that many colleges and universities want to see well-rounded students; those that are involved in clubs, sports, charitable causes and other activities that highlight their interests.
While a well-rounded applicant looks great on paper, even the most brilliant students can fail once they leave the campus. Teaching your children emotional intelligence early in their school life is a smart way to pave their success.
While employers seek intelligent employees and managers, they also need team players—those who can get along with others for the greater good. Many employers are looking even deeper into their applicants and zeroing in on those who also showcase emotional aptitude. Raising an emotional intelligent child is becoming even more important as the race to success becomes tighter and much more competitive.
So what makes up our emotional intelligence (or “EQ”)? People who exhibit emotional intelligence:
- Understand their own emotions
- Identify the emotions of those around them
- Exhibit control over their emotions
- Empathize with others.
EQ helps managers have better relationships with employees, enables teachers to better understand students and students better relate to their peers. A high EQ positively impacts social relations with others and is one of the qualities employers look for in the hiring process.
If EQ is now one of the sought after qualities for both employers and colleges, how can parents raise children with high emotional intelligence? These exercises will teach your kids emotional intelligence that will certainly be of great use throughout their lives.
Emotional Intelligence Exercises
While some schools incorporate social emotional learning into the curriculum, not every school has jumped on the EQ bandwagon. Parents can help students boost their EQ at home, though, with a few fun emotional intelligence exercises.
Emotional Intelligence Activities: Card Games to Identify Emotions
Identifying emotions is crucial to EQ. If you cannot process your own emotions, how can you process the emotions of others? And understanding the emotions of others leads to good social relationships.
Name the Emotion
Create cards with varying emotions. For younger children, cards should show different faces conveying emotions. Think beyond happy, sad and mad, though. Include a few more complicated emotions like jealousy, worry, fear and embarrassment.
Have your child choose a card, and then talk about the face (or word). If they can’t identify the emotion from the facial expression, then talk them through the feeling. Explain what the more abstract emotions like worry and embarrassment mean in a social context.
Match the Emotion
You also can create cards that match the emotion to a situation. So create cards with a face displaying the emotion and then create a matching card that depicts a situation where that emotion would be appropriate. Fear could show a ghost and embarrassment could show a character being ridiculed.
You also could just write the word on a card and have the child match it to the correct facial expression.
Emotional Intelligence Role Play Exercises
Role playing is a great way to teach emotional intelligence. Sit down with your child and act out situations that could lead to social conflict or an emotional reaction. Ask your child how they would feel in the situation and talk them through how to respond to someone else’s emotional reactions.
Emotional intelligence role playing exercises should be age appropriate. Cyberbullying and physical bullying, though, should be discussed with all ages. Remember, though, bullying also can be emotional and more psychological in form.
Older grade school kids also should role play situations involving peer pressure as it relates to drugs and alcohol. Kids with higher EQ understand that self-advocating is important.
Exercises to Improve Emotional Intelligence
Beyond role playing and simple card games, there are so many other ways to boost kids’ EQ. And some even involve a healthy boost of exercise.
Children who play team sports learn how to work towards a greater goal (the win), but they also learn how to interact with others. A team environment also can place kids into situations where they may have to resolve a disagreement.
Some sports organizations also may include EQ instruction as part of their coaching styles.
Yoga is typically a solo activity. But some yoga programs integrate EQ as part of the class structure.
Mindfulness may be a part of the yoga experience. And meditation can help facilitate mindfulness. So what exactly is ‘mindfulness?’ This is self-awareness, of being present in the here and now. Mindfulness helps you stay in the moment.
Parents may not always be aware, but many public and private schools already integrate SEL (Social & Emotional Learning) activities and programs into their curriculum. According to The Big EQ Campaign, popular programs include:
- 4 R’s
- Al’s Pals
- I Can Problem Solve
- Raising Healthy Children
- The RULER Approach
There are many more different types of SEL programs, though, so check with your child’s school to inquire about SEL and programs that are integrated into the curriculum. If your school district isn’t on the EQ bandwagon, you may be able to help start an EQ program as an after-school activity.
Exercises to Improve Emotional Intelligence…for Parents?
Interpreting and understanding the emotions of others might be a learned behavior as well as an engrained understanding. Some kids may be born socially gifted. Others might need to learn the ropes of EQ.
But how parents deal with emotions also can impact their kids. Often, children learn habits from parents. So if you yell, don’t listen to others and fail to ever empathize, your children may pick up those habits too.
Take time to understand how you communicate with kids. And how you handle your own emotions. Talk through feelings. Instead of shouting or yelling, take a step back. Then try to remain calm and initiate a discussion.
Changing our own habits can be hard. However, teaching our children the right and wrong way to deal with conflict is important.
While you can play card games, send your children to a mindfulness session or even choose a school that integrates SEL into the curriculum, how you behave at home also matters. So set the example, be the example, choose your words wisely and work on boosting your EQ, too.