Today, I’m sharing ten ways to foster emotional intelligence at home. I think it is fair to say that, as parents, one of our goals is to raise kind, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent young people. Those who are emotionally intelligent are able to navigate and feel confident in social situations, build relationships, and feel connected with others. These people can make a positive impact on the people around them. As parents, we are constantly on the hunt for more ways to flex those empathy muscles and foster emotional intelligence in children.
10 Ways to Foster Emotional Intelligence at Home
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence refers to:
- An individual’s ability to identify emotions in self and others
- An individual’s ability to effectively manage emotions
- The ability to recognize and appropriately respond to the emotions of others
- Empathy for others
10 Ways to Flex Empathy Muscles and Build Emotional Intelligence
Here are ten simple ways to flex those empathy muscles and build emotional intelligence at home. When you are finished reading, I’d love to hear how you foster emotional intelligence in your children!
Practice identifying emotions
Social-emotional skills are important life skills, skills that help us to navigate our world, connect with others, and build life-long relationships.As a school psychologist and mom to three young children, I believe it is important to teach children to identify, express, and manage emotions in a healthy way. But in order to express and manage those emotions, one must first be able to identify emotions. Here is a link to help you get started:
Discuss emotions and experiences
Once your child is able to identify emotions, talk about them! This can be accomplished through conversation, books, watching and discussing movies, playing games, and by having emotional check-ins. If you are looking for an easy way to talk about emotions through play, check out this post:
Teach coping skills
Coping skills are important life skills. Strong emotions and stressors are a part of life. The sooner your child is able to effectively manage strong emotions, the better. If your child is struggling in a particular area, it is okay to pause and focus on that. We have paused our homeschool routine to help my oldest cope with worries, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The more tools you can add to your child’s coping skills toolbox, the better! If you want to read more about how we have worked on coping skills at home (especially if you are the parent of a child with BIG worries), here is a link:
Read great books… and talk about them!
Carefully-selected read alouds are the spine of our homeschool routine. Reading aloud offers countless opportunities for learning, especially when it comes to identifying and understanding emotions in others. When you read aloud, take it slow. Let the read aloud be a conversation. Pause to make predictions, to ponder a character’s emotional response, to discuss conflicts and their resolutions. Share a time when you felt similarly. Offer an alternative ending. There are endless ways to turn a book into a social-emotional learning experience!
- Raising Readers: A Resource Page for Parents
- Children’s Books to Inspire Kindness
- 25 Books About Gratitude to Inspire Kindness at Home
When I was an undergraduate, I was wholly fascinated with positive psychology and the work of Martin Seligman and others. Research has shown, time and time again, that those who practice gratitude are happier. And it has been suggested that we can actually practice being more grateful. Here are some resources:
- Just So Thankful Jar: A Simple Activity to Build Gratitude at Home
- Stop Counting Raisins: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home
- Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character by Jeffry Froh
- Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life’s Biggest Yes by Kristen Welch
- The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber
Want to encourage kindness? Model kindness and forgiveness.
We all know that children are little sponges. All day long, we make choices. We have countless opportunities to choose kindness. These acts need not be extravagant. They can be as simple as a smile or kind word given to a stranger. These simple acts have the power to change someone’s life. Model kindness and forgiveness and talk about it with your children.
- Family Kindness Project: Have You Filled a Bucket Today?
- To the Lady at the Pool Who Spoke Up During One of My Lowest Parenting Moments
You can talk about kindness, read books about kindness, lecture children about kindness… but nothing beats being kind together. Family service projects will help others, teach kindness, and flex those empathy muscles. One of my favorite go-to sites for service projects is Doing Good Together. If you are looking for ideas, check out these Doing Good Together posts:
- Four Life Lessons to Help Your Big-Hearted Idealist Avoid Burnout
- Big-Hearted and Brilliant: Service Ideas that Flex Empathy Muscles and Expand Young Minds
- Big-Hearted Families Summer Bucket List
It is often said that play is the science of childhood. Children learn how to navigate their world through play. When parents play alongside their children, they have the opportunity to work on those precious social skills while having fun. Playing a game presents many opportunities for teachable moments and you are building relationships and making memories in the process! While direct instruction of social skills has its place, there is something to be said for the hands-on, experiential learning that playing games together provides. If you are looking to boost social-emotional skills, it might be a good idea to start with cooperative games where players must work together. I have listed some of my favorites below.
- The Ultimate Guide to Family Games and Play
- 100 Games and Picture Books for Play-Based Learning
- Cooperative Games for Building Social Skills
- Ignite Creativity and Learning with Build & Imagine
In his best-selling book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv explores research linking children’s health and well-being to direct exposure to nature. In addition to increasing health and happiness and decreasing stress, spending time in nature increases our concern for and connection to the natural world.
When in doubt, simplify
I am a huge fan of the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. We live in an amazing time, but I do believe that children today almost have too many choices and too many things to do. They aren’t provided with enough space to be bored. I believe it is an important skill to be able to just be with yourself, without having someone entertain you all day long. Simplicity Parenting is a refreshing book about protecting childhood. By cutting back and simplifying, you realize what is truly most important. I am always amazed at how much better we all feel every time we simplify.
And don’t forget…
Remember how your mom always told you that Rome wasn’t built in a day? Well, your mom was right. Developmentally, it is typical for children to focus on the self rather than others. Things will change. Keep up the hard work and teaching and modeling and giving and, with time, you will see a change.
Are you parenting a gifted or twice-exceptional child, too?
Here are some of the books that helped me on this journey:
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: How do you work on emotional intelligence at home? Share here!
This post has been part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page November 2016 Blog Hop. Please click the image below to read other articles in the series.
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram