Whether it's called "social and emotional learning" or "emotional intelligence," most people understand it's critical to pay attention to the development of the whole young person, including character education. Parents have a dual role to play in raising a self-aware, respectful child who knows how to manage his or her emotions, make responsible decisions, and resolve conflicts non-violently. At home, you should strive to create an environment of trust, respect, and support. Remember that modeling "emotionally intelligent" behavior at home is the first step in nurturing emotionally intelligent children. At school, you can work with other members of your school community to create a climate that supports social and emotional learning - in and out of the classroom.
Here are some specific steps you can take to nurture an emotionally intelligent child, and additional resources you can use to learn more about social and emotional learning.
Strategies At Home
Be a good listener. Joshua Freedman, Chief Operating Officer at Six Seconds, a nonprofit organization supporting emotional intelligence in families, schools, corporations, and communities, describes listening as a "core competency skill." Unfortunately, it's not always practiced by parents or children. For a list of strategies and activities for building listening skills, read Freedman's article on the subject, one of the many useful parenting resources at KidSource Online.
Nurture your child's self-esteem. A child with a good sense of self is happier, more well-adjusted, and does better in school. Strategies for fostering self-esteem include giving your child responsibilities, allowing her to make age-appropriate choices, and showing your appreciation for a job well done.
Respect differences. Every child has his or her own unique talents and abilities. Whether in academics, athletics, or interpersonal relationships, resist the urge to compare your child to friends or siblings. Instead, honor your child's accomplishments and provide support and encouragement for the inevitable challenges he faces.
Take advantage of support services. Seek the advice and support of school counselors or other social services during times of family crisis, such as a divorce or the death of a close friend or family member. Remember that no matter how close you are to your child, she may be more comfortable discussing a troubling family situation with another trusted adult.
Strategies At School
Investigate your school's efforts to support social and emotional learning. Keep in mind that programs take on many forms and are called by many different names, including character education, leadership, conflict resolution, or peer mediation. Author Elias has identified four ideal components of a school's social emotional learning program: a specific program to support social-emotional learning, problem-prevention and health promotion activities, support services to address transitions, crises, and conflicts, and a commitment to community service. Ask your child, his teacher, and your school principal about activities and programs in each of these key areas.
Organize guest speakers. Work with your school's parent organization to identify experts within your community who can speak to parents and teachers about strategies for nurturing emotionally intelligent children.
Get involved. Consider volunteering for a school or school district committee responsible for overseeing the implementation of programs to support social and emotional learning. Note: At a district level, these programs are often (though not always) part of a safety or violence prevention department.
Celebrate diversity. Work with other parents and school staff to organize programs and events to celebrate and honor the many cultures in your school community.
The EQ for Families curriculum provides a toolkit for putting on four workshops for parents and caregivers to create more emotionally intelligent families. You’ll find the toolkit, as well as many other useful EI resources, at the Six Seconds website.