Are our children lacking in emotional intelligence because of the way they live in the world these days?
A new study has suggested that children as young as three are hindering their emotional intelligence by spending too long staring at screens instead of socialising with other youngsters. The boom in ownership of smart phones, tablets and computer consoles among ever younger kids, combined with hours spent in their own company playing high-tech games, is inhibiting these skills.
This is of huge concern and of course makes sense. If children are spending less time with each other learning to share, communicate effectively with their peers and develop their emotions, then they are not developing the skills required to understand and relate authentically towards each other properly.
The warning was issued by Dr. Amanda Gummer, founder of Fundamentally Children, an organisation committed to helping children develop skills through play. She blames ‘Me, Now’ cultures, along with the fact children are being over-protected by parents who are not encouraging them to take responsibility for their own happiness and well-being.
Dr. Gummer said: “In an increasingly interconnected world, it would be nice to think that children today are more emotionally intelligent, empathic and self-aware than previous generations. “But there is a growing concern that the increase in remote communication hinders children’s emotional development and actually children today can find it more difficult to understand and manage their emotions.
“Inter-personal relationships play a huge role in the development of emotional skills and there is a worrying trend for children to spend less time socialising with others and more time in solitary situations, so they may be getting fewer opportunities to practice those important skills. The last ten years have seen a massive increase in screen use and a trend for children to get access to and ownership of their first mobile device at ever younger ages.”
Children need real contact in order to develop their emotional intelligence. I spent a lot of time working on teaching my children emotional intelligence – some have it in bucket loads compared to others. I remember once making a sad face and suggesting that my son guess what I was thinking about. “Carrots” he said and when questioned, it was because I was staring at my plate of carrots at the time. I knew then that I had my work cut out for me. They do all get there in the end, but the key is to ensure that they spend time with actual friends, rather than virtual friends and start working things out for themselves.
This should be looked into further – a massive cause for concern – especially for boys who don’t learn about emotions in the same way as girls. Talking is good. Easier said than done, mind you.
TOP 10 SIGNS OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN CHILDREN
1. Children naming their emotions
2. Children realising that the way they act has an impact on how other people feel
3. Children naming other people’s emotions
4. Older children making suggestions as to why they feel a certain way
5. Recognition and understanding of other people’s feelings
6. Imaginative role-play that includes narratives around feelings
7. Feeling confused about their feelings, but wanting to discuss them
8. Acts of kindness towards other people – especially those in need
9. Having a ‘moderator’ role within their friendship group
10. Normally being able to get what they want out of people
TOP 10 WAYS TO IMPROVE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN CHILDREN
1. Validate their emotions – Say: ‘‘I can see that you’re cross… but you can’t have another cake/let’s see what we can do to help you feel better/can you tell me why?’’
2. Look after your own emotional well-being and give them a healthy model to copy and learn from
3. Be authentic – don’t try and hide your feelings
4. Encourage imaginative role-play – especially with characters that have different expressions
5. Practice making funny (emotional) faces in the mirror together and rebelling the emotion
6. Give children options for ways to handle difficult emotions (e.g. a pillow to thump if they’re angry, a quiet safe place to go if they’re scared)
7. Talk to your children about how you manage your own difficult emotions
8. Read books with your child that include emotional storylines and discuss them
9. Encourage children to play freely with other children – they gain a lot from mixing with a wide range of people
10. Don’t try and do it all for them – let them start to take responsibility for their own lives and happiness as early as possible