1. UNDERSTANDING OURSELVES
It starts with knowing oneself and their emotions. To work with young people of any age group it is necessary to start with their feelings and emotions.
Emotions are “watchmen” who tell us how we are and whether we are achieving the goals we have set for ourselves in life. They tell us if we are having a good or bad day, if we are satisfied or if we need a change in our life, if we are well or if we are too overloaded. In general, they tell us how things are going. All emotions are therefore useful and, indeed, indispensable from an evolutionary point of view: in a certain sense, they serve us to survive. Without emotions, we couldn’t get away with it. For example, without fear we would not stop at the red light; without anger, we would not defend ourselves if the car was stolen under our nose, without sadness we would not be able to process the bereavements and losses of our lives and so on.
Emotions perform mainly three basic functions:
- They physically prepare us to act. They are quick, involuntary responses and push us to put in place a certain behavior fundamental to our survival. They save our time and act immediately.
- They communicate to others how we feel. Facial expressions, the tone of our voice, our posture, gestures, and actions provide those around us with an important signal of how we are. Research shows that when what we say in words and body language do not match, our interlocutors tend to trust more of the information provided by our nonverbal expressions.
- They communicate how we feel about ourselves. They are signals that warn us how we are, and tell us whether or not we are achieving our personal, affective and interpersonal goals.
Young children deal with many of the same emotions adults do. Children get angry, sad, frustrated, nervous, happy, or embarrassed, but they often do not have the words to talk about how they are feeling. Instead, they sometimes act out these emotions in very physical and inappropriate ways.
Parents or educators can help their children understand and express their emotions. The following strategies are some of the ways you can help them express their feelings:
- Help them understand their emotions by first giving the feelings names and then encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling.
- Give them lots of opportunities to identify feelings in themselves and others.
- Teach them the different ways they can respond to specific feelings, conflicts, or problems. Talk about your feelings with them.
- Teach them to identify and express their emotions in ways that the family and friends find acceptable.
Understanding emotions is a critical part of children’s overall development. It is up to adults to teach children to understand and deal with their emotions in appropriate ways. Teach them about their emotions, help them come up with new ways to deal with emotions, give them lots of time to practice their new strategies, and always remember to give lots of positive encouragement.
2. DREAMING BIG
Growing up also means learning to respect limits and be more realistic, of that there is. But sometimes this also leads us to convince ourselves that certain opportunities or possibilities are not available to us, or that we cannot achieve certain goals because we will never be able to… and this is not always good for us.
Being aware of one’s limits on many occasions can also be healthy, but some factors can negatively affect our perception of them, for instance, lack of self-esteem, growing up in an environment which does not stimulate us, or simply lack the knowledge regarding the tools and opportunities at our disposal.
To get us out of this vicious circle, we can be helped by examples of other people who have performed great deeds and whom we admire, we could study their stories and take their example, or we could simply imagine a utopian future, but then build a path of our own that takes us in new and unimaginable directions.
At this stage, we do not try to base ourselves on a forcedly positive philosophy that inculcates the thought of ”you can do anything you set your mind to, working hard enough”, but rather try to break out of our inner limitations, even flying high, and then turn dreams into concrete and possible goals.
3. DISCOVERING HOW TO REACH OUR GOALS
In this phase of the educational process, we accompany the young participants in transforming ‘dreams’ into more realistic and achievable goals. Once small and large goals have been defined, we will pause to analyse the resources available in the area (but also online) to map out a path together. There will certainly be obstacles, but this should not discourage us: in the end, goals are not secular trees with giant roots, they can transform and adapt over time! Plans are drawn and revised as we go along, so don’t be afraid to come back to this point as often as necessary, or to teach participants various techniques for redrawing their goals at an individual level, regardless of the group process in which they might be participating.
4. GETTING THERE IN ONE PIECE
(ADAPTING AND GROWING)
Educate a child about emotional intelligence means shaping an adult who was capable of correctly dealing with the normal hardships of life, without frustration or fear; on the other hand, it also allows the child to learn to understand their inner world and to live peacefully in a social context, in contact with other children.Below, there are some techniques for parents to help with the development of their child’s emotional intelligence:
- Label your child’s emotions. Kids need to know how to recognize how they’re feeling. You can help your child by putting a name to her emotions—at least the emotion you suspect your child is feeling.
- Show empathy. For example, when your child is upset—especially when their emotions seem a bit on the dramatic side—it can be tempting to minimize how they’re feeling. But dismissive comments will teach your child that the way they’re feeling is wrong. A better approach is to validate their feelings and show empathy.
- Model appropriate ways to express feelings. Kids need to know how to express their emotions in a socially appropriate way. The best way to teach your child how to express feelings is by modeling these skills yourself.
- Teach healthy coping skills. Once kids understand their emotions, they need to learn how to deal with those emotions in a healthy way. Knowing how to calm themselves down, cheer themselves up, or face their fears can be complicated for little ones. Teach specific skills. For example, your child may benefit from learning how to take a few deep breaths when they’re angry to calm their body down. A kid-friendly way to teach this involves telling them to take “bubble breaths” where they breathe in through their nose and blow out through their mouth as if they’re blowing through a bubble wand.
- Develop problem-solving skills. Part of building emotional intelligence involves learning how to solve problems. After the feelings have been labelled and addressed, it’s time to work through how to fix the problem itself. Perhaps your child is angry that their sister keeps interrupting them while they’re playing a video game. Help them identify at least five ways they might solve this problem. Solutions don’t have to be good ideas. Initially, the goal is just to brainstorm ideas.: once they’ve identified at least five possible solutions, help them assess the pros and cons of each one. Then, encourage them to pick the best option.