My Favorite Ways to Support Emotional Intelligence | Ages birth - 3
I was recently in professional development workshop-- the speaker, a psychologist, was explaining distress. She then went around the room and asked “how are you?” The responses? “I’m good,” “quite well,” “eh, tired.” Sound familiar?
The responses were canned and thoughtless. It’s something I’ve often thought a lot about, the fly by “how are ya?” that no one stops to hear the response to, or even in some cases respond with an empty and unrelated “nothing much, you?” We don’t talk about our emotions. Not really.
Emotional Intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Sidenote, I’m a Pisces and an introvert. I’ve always felt my Emotional IQ was quite high and something that often leaves me exhausted, but that’s another post. Expressing emotions is hard work, but it’s good work. Necessary work. What I want to talk is teaching children to speak more openly, or even think more concretely about their emotions. I believe if we start the conversation young, communication will be healthier and richer as young adults and beyond. I work predominately with adolescents, and trust me folks, they are riddled with anxiety, shame, and fear. They are yearning for tools.
When River was about 10 months old we began playing a theater game called “Practicing Our Emotions.” I’d call out an emotion. “Show me your happy face,” and big smile would light up the whole place. “Show me your angry face.” Her face contorted and snarled. “Show me silly… surprised… confused… unsure…” This was our bath time ritual and it was fun! More importantly, it set the foundation for real conversations about our feelings.
As she grows, we’ve been collected books about emotions. For me, literature is the best way to support the habit of talking about emotions and big feelings. Take them out of our heads, onto a page, and into the room with language.
Here are my favorites for starting the conversation (ages birth - 3). Click here to read more about resources for speaking with children about emotions.
Baby Faces — Babies love other babies. #facts This book is so well loved in our home it’s falling apart. Simple, one or two word phrases that correspond to each emotion. The perfect book to support our bath time emotions game.
How Are You Peeling? — this book takes fruits and vegetables and gives them faces, personifies them. Not only do we learn more about emotions, but also about interactions with others and how emotions might show up there. It’s also a great resource for language acquisition, whether English is your first or second language.
In My Heart — gosh, this book makes me cry every time. What a wonderful, artistic visual of feelings. In general, I love Jo Witek’s books. I purchased another one of hers when I was pregnant with Kellen. She has such a talent for taking abstract ideas and giving them a firm foundation for building the ability to talk openly about feelings.