Emotional literacy is one of the most important lessons a child can learn. Sadly, it’s not taught in schools, religious institutions, or even homes. Why not? Because few teachers, parents, or coaches understand it. As a result, emotional intelligence gets ignored. We educate our kids in academics, athletics, religion, and social skills but give them no training about their feelings. This is a great tragedy as it leads to confusion, unconsciousness, and suffering throughout life.
Children who are not taught about their feelings have a very hard time functioning in the world. An emotionally unintelligent person is like a house built on sand. When things are going well, they are fine. But, when things do not go their way, which is inevitable in life, they cannot cope because they have not been taught the skills to understand and manage their own feelings.
Teaching about emotional literacy begins one child at a time. Emotional literacy is the building block of emotional intelligence. Just as we teach children to read and do math, it is essential that we teach them to understand and manage their feelings.
Begin by teaching your children how to precisely label their feelings. Are they happy, sad, frustrated, jealous, angry? Younger children can be shown pictures of faces which reflect each of these feelings. Older children can draw pictures to express how they are feeling. Teenagers should be allowed to talk about their feelings without repercussions, judgment, or resistance. It is irrelevant whether the parent thinks their feeling is valid or not.
Once a child knows how to identify their feelings, they can then be taught to manage and cope with them. Explain that feelings are like waves in the ocean. They move through us, they are impermanent, and they need not be resisted, suppressed, or ignored. Even those feelings that hurt are okay to feel and will eventually dissipate just like a wave in the ocean.
The parent can also be the role model for handling their emotions with intelligence by expressing what they are feeling and showing their child that they are willing to sit with their feelings without blaming others or reacting to them. This teaches children the important lesson that all feelings are safe, and even when they hurt, they will pass.
Children who learn to understand, manage, and tolerate the entire spectrum of feelings, without labeling them as “good” or “bad,” will thrive knowing that they can handle anything in life that comes their way with intelligence and equanimity. Start now! It’s never too late, and it’s never too early to raise your children’s emotional literacy.
Want more from Ellen, a certified conscious parenting coach? Check out her book called “How to Raise A Parent: Becoming a Conscious Parent in an Unconscious World!” It’s chock full of lessons and stories about emotional intelligence, as well as all of the essentials to becoming a conscious parent.