Emotional literacy is the ability to understand and manage emotions in oneself and in others and it needs to be modeled more than taught because people are different and are affected by theirs and other’s emotions differently.
Emotional literacy includes skills such as emotional control, recognizing own emotional state, managing emotions, recognizing other’s emotional state, being able to be explicit and talk about feelings.
Emotional Competence as a tool in dealing with bullying
In a stressful situation like bullying, children who lack emotional literacy are less likely to try to stop it or to seek help from others; they might become bullies themselves or might simply allow the bullying to continue, which will only perpetuate and lead to low self esteem at the very least.
We, as parents have plenty opportunities to help children develop emotional literacy thus preventing them becoming bullies or victims of bullying.
An emotional competent child can recognize his own and other people emotional states, manage his feelings, thoughts and emotions and deal with day to day challenging social situations.
Wherever a child is troubled by bullying or is a bully himself, the parents can help by encouraging talking, facilitating communication, listening, acknowledging the feelings described, defining the and assisting in finding a better way to deal with them. All this can make the child understand what is going on with his emotions and feel reassured, heard and accepted and enable him to take control of his emotions and find better solutions to their issues.
Children come across many difficulties and conflicts and during their day. Some can be prevented and solved simply by explaining to them that sharing, being kind, taking turns are beneficial to all. However, some conflicts require negotiating and problem solving skills. When serious conflicts are solved by an adult, children have an opportunity to observe and acquire conflict solving skills. Often children should be also encouraged to solve their own conflicts and problems so their negotiation and conflict resolution skills can be formed and strengthened.
Inhibited parent vs Impulsive – the balance
As I mentioned, emotional control and emotional intelligence should be modeled. However, this doesn’t necessary mean we must always have a smile on the face to hide normal day to day feelings and emotional states.
We must find the balance between being too controlled and too impulsive, between a professional behavior and being simply natural. Such a balance will help the kids tune in with how we are feeling. Overdoing the controlled behavior could result in desensitized children that would simply learn that ‘bad ’emotional states must be inhibited. Not all negative feelings should be hidden from the children. Stress, worry, tiredness, fear can be shared and explained to the children, so they can also observe how the adult deals with them and ultimately adopt positive coping strategies. Shouting, insulting, swearing, sarcasm and other emotional outbursts that most of us often feel like at times must be inhibited though as it never results in improving the situation.
Conclusion: Emotional Literacy is the key to better playgrounds, better schools, and a better society.