Great Health Guide - - FRONT PAGE - Words Dr Ash Nay­ate De­sign Olek­san­dra Zuieva

If knowl­edge is power, then emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is the fuel that keeps our sys­tem op­er­at­ing. Emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is in­te­gral to suc­cess in ev­ery area of life, from ed­u­ca­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity, to re­la­tion­ships and self-es­teem. Emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent peo­ple have sev­eral dis­tinct qual­i­ties such as em­pa­thy for oth­ers, self-aware­ness and flex­i­ble think­ing. This gives them unique in­sight into the com­plex­i­ties of life and makes them more re­silient to chal­lenges. The good news is that emo­tional in­tel­li­gence can be learned. In fact, it be­gins at a very young age from when our chil­dren start to recog­nise them­selves (and their thoughts and feel­ings) as dis­tinct from those around them.

As care­givers, we have a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity to nur­ture the way our chil­dren de­velop emo­tional in­tel­li­gence as they tra­verse child­hood. And in­ter­est­ingly, it’s our day to day in­ter­ac­tions with them that have the most im­pact. Here are a few ways in which chil­dren learn from their sur­rounds.

1. Dis­cov­ery.

Chil­dren learn lan­guage at a phe­nom­e­nal rate, in­clud­ing the words that rep­re­sent the spec­trum of hu­man emo­tions. Over time, the generic de­scrip­tions of feel­ing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ grad­u­ally give way to a richer vo­cab­u­lary such as feel­ing ‘an­gry’, ‘ex­cited’, ‘scared’, ‘an­noyed’, etc. With a richer vo­cab­u­lary, chil­dren are more pre­cisely able to iden­tify their feel­ings, which en­ables spe­cific cor­rec­tive ac­tions to be taken. for ex­am­ple, when chil­dren recog­nise that they feel ‘frus­trated’ (which is due to feel­ing thwarted in their ef­forts to ac­com­plish some­thing), they can take spe­cific ac­tions to re­solve or re­move the road­block. By con­trast, a gen­eral de­scrip­tion of ‘I feel bad’ is too vague to iden­tify a clear source of ac­tion and can leave them (and us) guessing as to how to find a res­o­lu­tion.

2. Be a role model.

Chil­dren learn through watch­ing, not by lis­ten­ing. The way we man­age our emo­tions will pro­vide them with a ‘how-to’ guide. If we eat choco­late to deal with frus­tra­tion, they may learn that eat­ing choco­late is an ap­pro­pri­ate solution. Or, they may make the con­nec­tion be­tween food and emo­tions and learn to use food (or with­draw from food) to deal with their feel­ings. This is not to sug­gest that per­fec­tion should be our goal, be­cause I be­lieve it’s im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that we’re only hu­man and bound to make er­rors in judge­ment. It’s what we con­sis­tently do, that mat­ters. Oc­ca­sion­ally eat­ing choco­late when we’re frus­trated isn’t the is­sue - but if we turn to choco­late most of the time, then per­haps it’s worth­while choos­ing a dif­fer­ent strat­egy. It can be use­ful to ask our­selves, ‘do I want my child to han­dle their feel­ings in this way?’ If


the an­swer is ‘no’, then it’s time for us to flex our own emo­tional in­tel­li­gence mus­cles and de­velop some new habits.

3. show and tell.

Our chil­dren have an un­canny abil­ity to know when we’re feel­ing dis­com­fort, like anger, sad­ness, or stress - although they’re not al­ways able to put words to our emo­tions. They then watch in­tensely to see how we han­dle those emo­tions. It can be use­ful for us to pro­vide a clear ex­pla­na­tion of the con­nec­tion be­tween our feel­ings and the healthy way we choose to cope with them. for ex­am­ple, ‘I’m feel­ing re­ally an­noyed, so I’m go­ing to get a drink of wa­ter and take a break for a few min­utes’. By putting words to our feel­ings and ac­tions, our chil­dren de­velop a reper­toire of healthy cop­ing strate­gies for their own feel­ings. In next is­sue of Great Health GuideTM I will con­tinue to dis­cuss the last two im­por­tant fac­tors in rais­ing emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent chil­dren – stay tuned.

Dr ash nay­ate is a clin­i­cal neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist spe­cial­iz­ing in brain func­tion and re­sult­ing be­hav­iour. Ash has al­most 15 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with chil­dren and fam­i­lies, sup­port­ing them to feel hap­pier, more con­fi­dent and re­silient. To con­tact Ash please visit her web­site.

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