Few skills are as important as emotional intelligence. It’s been shown to be a major factor in an individual’s ability to achieve success. Studies have shown that people with average IQs and high emotional intelligence outperform those with high IQs up to 70 percent of the time. They’ve also shown that those with high emotional intelligence tended to make an average of $29,000 more per year than those with low emotional intelligence! As a foster care parent, you have the opportunity to help at-risk children develop this very valuable skill.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (also referred to as EQ) is the “capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”. It’s the basis for good communication skills, social skills, and empathy. Unlike academic intelligence, emotional intelligence can be learned.
How Can You Teach It to Kids?
Children, regardless of their age, are incredibly intelligent. The best way to teach emotional intelligence is to model it, but you can also coach them through the inevitable moments when they have emotions.
- Help them identify their emotions. (“How are you feeling about not being chosen for the soccer team?”)
- Then, teach them how to resolve those emotions. (“It’s okay to cry.” “Do you want to talk about it?” “What are some things you are really good at?” “You could practice these three things and try out again next year.”)
- Talk about your own emotions. Take ownership for them and talk about how you identify and manage them.
- Apologize when the wrong expression of your emotions hurts your kids. (“I was upset that the dentist appointment went late and then I snapped at you. I’m sorry. That wasn’t your fault.”)
- Teach them how to empathize with others. For example, if another child was the brunt of a joke, ask your children how they think that child felt. Coach them to put themselves in the shoes of that child.
- Teach them problem-solving skills. (“What could you do to help your friend when she gets angry at you?” “Is there something you’re saying or doing that could be upsetting her?”)
- Help them develop positive self-talk. (“I can do this.” “I did my best.” “I can try again.”)
As children learn healthy self-awareness and emotional regulation skills, they will develop the ability to have healthy social skills and empathy.
Ultimately, children need to learn how to get along with people, and not only get along with them, but develop healthy relationships. Socially intelligent children fare better in school, in friendships, and in extracurricular endeavors, and later on, in the workplace and in romantic relationships.
Whether a foster child is in your home for a few days or for a number of years, you can model and teach emotional intelligence. You never know when the seeds you planted will carry the child through difficult situations and help them blossom into successful individuals.