Emotional literacy, also called emotional intelligence, helps us to live joyful and meaningful lives as people who contribute to the happiness of others. Broadly defined by a strong self awareness and awareness of others’ feelings, emotional literacy carries those highly valued “soft skills” that we associate with people of excellence.
Caring, conscientious parents of very young children, of course, do what they can to raise good people. When the children start going to school, those with a high level of emotional literacy will make friends easily, work cooperatively with others and become leaders.
Taking a holistic approach is the most effective way to help your preschool age child be emotionally literate. The primary element in emotional learning, as in all learning for young children. is the environment your child is growing up in.
Not surprisingly, it’s your own mindful way of life – or even your commitment to creating one – that generates an ideal cadence to raise an emotionally literate child. The more, slowed down pace give children the space to observe without distraction, to curtail reaction and respond thoughtfully in the complex world of emotions.
Consciously lower your voice when speaking to your preschooler. In Japan, parents and preschool teachers have long understood that when you want children to listen, lower your voice. Here in the west we tend to raise our voices to make sure our child has heard what we say, but hearing is not always listening. Hearing can bring about obedience or cooperation for the moment. Listening allows learning, comprehension and the development of good habits.
Start to observe your own communication habits. Do you speak in overly excited tones as a way to keep things upbeat? When you acknowledge or praise your child with too loud a voice and too much enthusiasm, your communication may seem forced instead of authentic. This may not actually feel good to your young child, and may result in them always trying to gain attention and becoming self-absorbed.. Instead try showing appreciation and joy for child’s accomplishments, rather than pride. This way you are modeling appreciation for others, and teaching your child to pay attention to others’ accomplishments, as well.
There are also some activities that are great to introduce your preschooler to observing their own reactions. For example. teach them to show you where in their bodies they “feel” sadness when they are upset. Let them call that feeling what comes to mind. You don’t need to teach them the words if they already are gaining awareness! You can even rename those feelings according to what your child call them.
Be creative! Use their toy animals, puppets and dolls in skits you create with your child to explore feelings. Paint pictures and hear what you child wants to say, guiding but not forcing the conversation. You can include playmates in these activities, but maintain that quiet focus, which will benefit your child and his or her friend.
Finally, try creating a friendship group of parents of preschoolers who are also committed to a mindful way of life and raising emotionally intelligent kids. Your child will then have a social group that reinforces the qualities they are learning at home. Perhaps your church or pre-schooi are good places to to reach out to like-minded families.