How to Develop a Child’s Emotional Intelligence by Reading

Reading with children isn't just about literacy; it's a powerful tool for emotional intelligence development. Learn to navigate and teach the full spectrum of emotions through stories and character empathy.

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A new bill was recently passed by the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, that will help fund new mental health programs, after-school programs, and more. This new bill will help open up more opportunities for children who did not have these services and it has highlighted how important social-emotional learning is for children. But, this doesn’t mean it stops here. We as parents can continue teaching these SEL skills even at home. Especially teaching our children how to manage their emotions.

A child’s emotions can run wild throughout the day. They can go from being happy with playing with a new toy, to maybe being upset when they don’t get what they want. Emotional intelligence is still being nurtured for young children. But, rest assured all emotions are okay! At an early age, children have a hard time understanding their emotions and knowing how to handle them. That is why it is our job as parents to teach them about their different emotions and how to manage them.

What emotions should we focus on?

The main emotions that can run through a child’s day are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust. Does this sound familiar? Maybe you have seen it in Disney’s 2015 movie Inside Out. This movie emphasized to the audience, us parents, that all emotions are okay for our child. In the beginning, Joy wanted to block sadness because she saw her as a “bad” emotion to Riley. However, towards the end of the movie, we learn that we actually need sadness in our lives because it’s a natural part of the human experience.

How can we teach emotion-management to our children?

Well, one fun way of teaching it to our children is through stories! Yes, books are so important to our children not just to learn about grammar, but to learn about emotions.

Pro tip: If your child has a hard time coming up with a time they felt an emotion, share your experience with them! They love hearing our stories and it’ll give them time to think!

The best method to teach emotions through reading are:

  1. Ask how the characters of the story are feeling
  2. Follow up with how they know that character is feeling a specific emotion
  3. Ask them about a time in their life when they felt that emotion

A character’s emotion is what drives a story

Many stories are driven through a character’s emotions. No matter the story, you will see one character either sad, upset, joyful, or even scared. Let your child notice these emotions in the story!

Knowing how to identify an emotion

It is very important that our children know how to identify emotions. It is actually one of the best ways to learn about emotion management is recognizing how one is feeling. Your child could identify emotions through expressions! Maybe the main character is happy because your child notices the wide smile across their face. The main character could also be angry because their face is red and they have furrowed eyebrows! 

Your child could also identify emotions through actions a character does. For example, maybe if a character is scared they have a fearful look on their face and they are shivering. Maybe this character is hiding behind a wall or in a closet.

Another way to identify emotions is through verbal interaction. If a character in the story is angry they could be yelling at someone or breaking an object. If a character is very happy maybe they are humming a song or skipping around!

After you have identified emotions within the story it’s time to ask your child when they have felt those emotions.

It’s very simple to ask your child. Let’s use the example of happiness. Ask your child these questions.

  1. When have you felt happy?
  2. Why were you happy?
  3. What do you do when you are happy?
Now you might think happiness might actually be a great emotion overall and that your child needs to be happy 24/7. That is not entirely true. As we’ve pointed out in the beginning, all emotions are important for your child and are natural.

What if you want to identify anger

  1. When and why have you felt angry?
  2. What do you do when you are angry?
  3. What calms you down?

Or how about sadness?

  1. When and why have you felt sad?
  2. What do you do when you are sad?
  3. What makes you feel better?

Notice on bullet point three for both anger and sadness that we point out how to calm ourselves down after feeling such strong emotions. This is where most of the “management” part of emotion management comes in. It’s 100% okay to feel these emotions and we as parents need to emphasize that to our children. 

In fact, there are multiple ways to destress after feeling such emotions. Here are a couple of suggestions…

Another pro tip: Find what your child loves to do! What they do can be a source of mindfulness for them.
  1. Meditation! There are many videos on YouTube just for children.
  2. Drawing, just plain doodling can help distract the mind.
  3. Taking a walk, being around nature can always be calming for many people.
  4. Listening to music. 
  5. Try out our free animal poses yoga cards online! 
  6. Reading a book!

The possibilities are endless! There is no right or wrong way when it comes to relaxing. As a parent, it’s encouraged to help your child find what they like so they have a source to help deal with their emotions.

However, the most important way is to also talk it out with someone. 

As parents, we should be a source of emotional support for our children through their ups and downs.

Even if your child may feel reluctant to share with you, as parents, just letting them know they have a shoulder to lean on helps open so many doors for your child. This will also help nurture them because once they grow up, hopefully, they have an adult they can trust by their side when they need someone to talk to.

Emotion-management important to a child’s wellbeing

If a child cannot communicate their emotions properly they will have a hard time interacting with other people and also containing all those buried emotions deep inside of themselves. Hopefully, this article has helped you gain some tips on how to be emotionally aware and open with your child.

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