Emotional Education in Children: 5 Keys to Building It

The  emotional education in children  is essential if they are motivated, interested and involved to be in school and  take advantage of what the school can offer.

They need to know how to focus their attention on studies, even when they have quarreled with a partner, learn to work together with other  students, and be good communicators and problem solvers.

Emotional Education

These skills are essential to develop and succeed not only in school but in all walks of life.

Emotional Education

Why is emotional education important?

According to research conducted worldwide by The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations :

” The success of people is due 23% to our intellectual abilities, and 77% to our emotional skills. Throughout life, greater self-esteem, a better ability to manage disruptive emotions, greater sensitivity to the emotions of others and better interpersonal skills are essential, and, as Daniel Goleman and Linda Lantieri point out, all these build in childhood. ”
In recent years, numerous studies have come to light providing this way of educating children from an emotional and social perspective. These are  called non-cognitive skills such as self-control, persistence and self-awareness.

Owning these skills is a greater predictor of success and happiness in life than academic results.

In this line, an Emotional and Social Learning (SEL) program was developed in the United States that could be complemented by  standard academic education.

Emotional and social learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitude and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, achieve goals, feel and demonstrate empathy towards others , establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.

Numerous studies explore the long-term benefits that can be gained through emotional and social learning programs.

In one of the investigations, they examined how SEL applied to primary school children has an impact in their adult stage since, in relation to the control group  , they developed a 10% less problem of psychological, behavioral and drug abuse at the age of the 25 years ( Dodge et al., 2014 ).

Another study demonstrates how the promotion of prosocial skills (kindness, cooperation and empathy) to primary school children correlates  significantly with higher academic achievement, better professionalism and better mental health; as well as less conflict activity and drug abuse ( Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015 ).

A study conducted in 2011 using a sample of 17,000 British children found that the level of mental well-being in children correlates very  significantly with success in the future.

Other studies show that children who develop these skills are not only more successful in the workplace but also have a  more durable marriage and suffer less from depression and anxiety . Some evidence shows that they also tend to be physically healthier.

In a study published to this effect, the group of students who had received an emotional and social education program during the first years  of schooling, at the age of 18, had 30% fewer incidents in school due to problems of behavior, 20% less violence and  crime and 40% less alcohol abuse.

Given the results, I believe it is important that both parents and teachers strive to educate children and teach them how to manage and enhance  social and emotional skills .

5 Keys to Emotional Education in Children

1-Fosters self-awareness

It is the ability to identify emotions, thoughts and their influence on behavior. This is one of the hardest things for young people  . Knowing what they feel, awareness about their body, the impact of their words on others.

In order to develop this ability, it is necessary to carry out a work of reflection that can be done through meditation , writing a diary or communicating  with people of trust.

Developing self-awareness develop the ability to recognize their own emotions, describe their interests and values ​​to be able to go for them, and  develop self-confidence and self-awareness. 

Making a list of words that reflect feelings or emotions with your children, and becoming a “coach of emotions” motivating your children to  express their feelings, can be a good way to develop self-awareness.

Also emphasize your child’s strengths, before considering other aspects could be improved.

Students who have greater self-awareness and self-confidence have greater persistence in coping with challenges (Aronson, 2002; cited in  Durlak et al., 2011).

2-Develop self-management

The skills that are part of Goleman’s self-management are: emotional self-control, flexibility, optimism , achievement of goals and initiative .

They have to be educated so that they are able to handle their own stress , control the impulses and have perseverance before the obstacles.

Sometimes it is okay for us to get carried away by emotions, especially when they are positive, such as getting a good grade on an exam. But we  must go more carefully when anger or anger floods us, because if we let ourselves be carried through without any control, the consequences  could be disastrous.

Emotional intelligence suggests that it is important to be aware of all our emotions because it is when we are conscious and we identify them,  when we can choose how to respond and how to express those emotions.

For those children or youth who are struggling to deal with anger or anger and who do not know how to resolve conflicts, they can be offered  tools such as breathing exercises, counting to five or momentarily leaving the place.

Students who set good academic goals, who have self-discipline , motivate themselves and manage their stress, have greater  learning ability, and obtain better results (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005; Elliot & Dweck, 2005; cited in Durlak et al. , 2011).


3-Generates social awareness

It is the capacity to take perspective and to empathize with others, recognizing and respecting diversity and individual and group differences.

To develop social awareness:

  • Improves listening skills.

  • Pay attention to interactions with other people. Watch what they say, how they say it and what they do.

  • Pay attention to the emotions that other people feel.

  • Think before you respond and express a clear answer.

To develop social awareness, it is very useful to carry out social work and activities that have to do with issues of social justice  .

Role-playing is a good way for them to put themselves in the shoes of other people and develop empathy.

4-Power relationship skills

It is the ability to establish and maintain healthy and satisfying relationships with different people and groups. This includes effective communication,  active listening, cooperation, withstanding social pressure, managing conflicts and offering help when needed.

It is a skill that is needed throughout life. You may not need to know how to calculate tomorrow, but you will need to know how to treat people both in a  working sense and with your life partner.

Students can learn cooperation and teamwork through team sports and games.

In class meetings, students can practice group decision making and rule-making.

Empowering self-awareness, self-regulation and social awareness consequently enhances relationship skills.

5-Stimulates decision-making

It is the ability to make constructive decisions about behavior and social interactions in accordance with ethical standards, social norms  , reasonableness, and that bring well-being to oneself and to others.

You can stimulate by giving choices to your children, ask them what they can do to help solve a problem, and help them identify the  advantages and disadvantages of different solutions.

Do not constantly make decisions for them. They themselves must be able to analyze the consequences, make a decision based on them and be  persistent in the decision chosen to carry it out.

Students who foster problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles and make responsible decisions develop higher  academic performance (Zins & Elias, 2006; cited in Durlak et al., 2011).

What can parents do to enhance these skills in their children?

  • Name the emotions you have. If you are angry or sad and cry, express aloud the feeling you are having so your child can identify what you are  feeling.

  • Uses a rich emotional vocabulary. Emotions are not only sad and contented. There are many other emotions that describe what we feel. The emotional world is complex and your child  must know how to put words to their feelings.

  • Validate your child’s feelings. If your child is frustrated because, for example, you have not been able to go to the park, validate the feeling you are having instead of ignoring it  “I understand that you feel frustrated because you could not go to the park, you have a reasonable feeling.”

  • Teach her empathy. Talk about understanding and empathy toward others. Do it with others so that I can have you as a model.

  • Help her understand different points of view. If your child comes home angry because at school he has argued with his friend, take some time to talk to him about the conflict. Validate  the emotion he is feeling and help him understand how to see his friend and how he has been able to feel.

  • Be an effective model of communication. Use at home, with your child and your partner, an effective communication, in which you express from the calm things that bother you without  screaming or insulting. The model your child sees at home is the one he will imitate in relationships with others.

Results of SEL Program Application in US Colleges:

  • Increased self-awareness and self-awareness

  • Increased ability to relax the body and release physical tension

  • It improves attention span and fundamental concentration for good learning.

  • Greater effectiveness in coping with stress situations.

  • Greater control over thoughts.

  • Greater opportunities to deepen communication and understanding between teacher-pupil-parents, because thoughts and 
    feelings are shared regularly.

  • Increased values ​​of empathy, cooperation and solidarity.

  • Excellent results in reading, writing and mathematics ( Source: CASEL – Collaboration for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning).

The SEL program has been applied in recent years to several schools in Spain. The results are still to be evaluated, but certainly  promising.

The application of the program of emotional and social learning in schools has been very successful in the countries in which it has been implemented. We are  waiting for it to be implemented in other countries, and to give it the importance of the emotional skills that, as I said at the  beginning of this article, represent 77% of people’s success.

In addition to its application in schools, it is important that parents try to encourage and develop these skills at home.

Pascal wrote over 300 years ago that “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”. And emotional and social education is an idea  whose time has already come.

And finally, a reflection: “Men always forget that human happiness is a disposition of the mind and not a condition of circumstances” J. LocKe.

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