By Rosie Linder
While classroom education continues to focus on academics, there is little-to-no emphasis on healthy emotional development in an era where we need it more than ever before. In fact, the State of the Heart 2016 study found that emotional intelligence continues to decline globally. What’s more, since 2014, there has been a decline in maintaining emotional balance (-3.3 percent), self-motivation (-2.9 percent), and connecting compassionately with others (-2.4 percent). The numbers don’t lie, it’s clear that if we want to live in a more compassionate world, then society needs to place a higher emphasis on emotional development.
So how does a lack of emotional education hurt children? A lack of emotional understanding and empathy for others can provoke negative situations such as bullying.
Peer aggression has even been found to be very common among preschool and kindergarten children ages three to five, and 20 percent of kindergarten students report being frequently bullied. Cyberbullying seems to have become just as big, if not a bigger issue than schoolyard bullying. This is extremely scary as it makes it more difficult to identify or be reported, being privately executed through technological social forums.
In order to prevent these issues from occurring we need to arm children with the emotional skills needed to better understand and deal with their emotions, both positive and negative. Parents and teachers, together, need to take the time to build up these skills, just as they would with an academic subject like math or language. The benefits of doing so aren’t just to prevent the hurtful situations like those dealing with bullying and cyberbullying, but rather to help children excel in many other areas in life, such as achieving higher grades, staying in school, and making healthier choices. According to psychologist, author and anti-bullying expert, Dr. Joel Haber, there are many key benefits of teaching empathy to children, including:
It provides them with the key ingredients to develop satisfying relationships and lifelong happiness.
Children are less likely to engage in bullying behaviors.
They are more likely to stand up for another child they see being bullied.
Children are better equipped to read emotional expressions and practice helping someone in need.
And it doesn’t stop there. The development of emotional intelligence, or EQ, is just as important as IQ, in fact quite relevant in the development of IQ. A March 2016 study conducted by World Economics Forum called New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology, shows that it can be highly effective to introduce Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) early and embed it in the core curriculum throughout a child’s schooling. It’s also expected that creativity, people management and emotional intelligence will hit the top 10 skills required in 2020! With jobs increasingly becoming social-skills intensive, we need to emphasize the importance of bringing SEL into the classroom and at an early age.
The report also shared a meta-analysis of 213 studies that showed students who received SEL instruction had achievement scores that averaged 11 percentile points higher than those who did not. What a difference! The study forecasts that it will take the combined efforts of a group of stakeholders—including policy makers, educators, parents, researchers, businesses, technology developers and investors—to overcome the challenges facing both SEL and related education technologies. Clearly, through EQ, children can benefit through greater academic results in learning core subjects such as math, reading and science, yielding better success in school, career and as a leader later in life. Early childhood is a critical time for SEL!
Parents and educators alike need to work with children to develop their EQ. Unfortunately, it has become more of a challenge for parents to spend quality time with their children in today’s busy, fast-paced world. But we must find that time to work one-on-one with our children, engaging with them to help them understand human emotion. Learning empathy and compassion for others will help to build healthy, long-lasting relationships, both personally and professionally, and to achieve greater success academically and professionally.