Emotional Intelligence - The soft skills of success

Emotional intelligence or EQ (emotional quotient) is vital for long-term performance and success. A social worker discusses ways to develop this skill.
By Cindy Toms

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At the core of all parent’s hearts is the desire for their children to be happy and successful, both now and throughout their adult life. Parents hope to see their children not only thriving in the classroom and on the sport field, but also within their friendships and relationships. Children have an incredible capacity to build relationships, yet often struggle to make and manage friendships with their peers.
 
This results in emotional turmoil. For parents, it is heartbreaking to see their child unhappy and reportedly without friends. Oh for a magic wand! But, the reality is, it takes hard work as well as developing a child’s emotional intelligence to attain a happy and successful persona. a critical skill Emotional intelligence has been highlighted as a critical skill to achieve success over and above academic performance.
 
At Elkanah House School, we intentionally grow emotional intelligence as part of our core learning by recognising the value of this soft skill in developing happy and successful young people. Parents often feel incapable of managing their children’s emotions, or report that their children don’t share their feelings. In response to this, I created an emotional intelligence game to assist children to grow in this area, and have fun while doing so.
 
“Go Fish for feelings” is a game designed specifically for young children, and is based on the popular children’s card game “Go Fish”. The game comprises fourteen different cards illustrated with South African animals, each of which represents a different emotion. The animals are set in scenarios that the children can identify with; in fact, the scenarios stem from the children themselves.
 
The very essence of emotional intelligence is being consciously aware of how you are feeling and intentionally regulating those feelings. As the children play, we look at the selected animal card and speak about what we think the animal is feeling. When doing so, the focus is on the children’s body language and facial expressions; key data for engaging in any social interaction. We discuss what we think made them (the animals) feel that way – linking an emotion to an experience.
 
At this point, the focus turns back to the children who are asked if they have ever experienced the same feelings and how it felt in their bodies. We are constantly amazed at how willing the children are to share their feelings, and that they mostly do so spontaneously. Linking our emotions to an experience helps us process and be consciously aware of the causative factors.
 
Once we know what these are, we can then intentionally do something about it and self-regulate. These are the tools for managing our emotions – our own toolbox of ideas. building happy relationships Emotional intelligence is, however, more than just our own emotional awareness and self-regulation. It extends to those around us with whom we have relationships.
 
It involves learning to recognise body language and facial expression in others. This recognition should be acted on and communicated intentionally to the other person through empathy, for example, “I can see you feel sad…”. This way the child learns to listen and communicate emotions with confidence. The outcome of developing and applying emotional intelligence in life results in happy, healthy relationships.
 
As parents, if we want to grow our children’s emotional intelligence, we need to also grow our own, thereby modelling to our children how we manage our emotions and communicate our feelings. Everyone has a degree of emotional intelligence, which is continually developing, but we need to be intentional about it.

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