Emotional intelligence, and its companion social intelligence, is an important life skill that all teens must develop. While some teens inherently possess a higher level of emotional intelligence than others, it’s still critical to help teens become more emotionally aware.
So, what is emotional intelligence?
Essentially, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and acknowledge emotions in ourselves and others. People who possess a healthy level of emotional intelligence use it to identify what they are feeling and to accurately assess what others are feeling. They skillfully manage their emotions, thereby avoiding excessive feelings, and are also able to feel empathy and compassion toward others.
How does emotional intelligence affect my teen?
Clearly, increasing emotional intelligence is a worthwhile endeavor. Teens with better emotional intelligence get better grades in school and are more likely to graduate from high school and college. Emotional intelligence also grants teens with the ability to have richer, more fulfilling relationships. They are more adept at cooperating and making compassionate responses.
How can I help as a parent?
One of the best ways parents can help teach their teens emotional intelligence is by setting a good example. When parents regulate their emotions, such as by staying calm in a high stress situation, they are demonstrating emotional intelligence, and kids will pick up on this example.
Another helpful example parents can provide is acting with empathy. This may mean giving your partner, a friend or a family member a shoulder to cry on or offering help when it’s needed. When you respond compassionately to another human being in distress, you’re embodying one of the most important concepts of emotional intelligence.
Also, make sure to frequently validate your teen’s feelings. When they are angry and frustrated, let them know that it is okay and reasonable to have those feelings, but also let them know what kinds of actions are and are not acceptable when these emotions arise. Try to get your teen to see the viewpoints of others in these situations to further help them develop empathy.