Expanding Emotional Intelligence

  Firstly, I’d like to say to parents/guardians/siblings/care-givers/teachers/mentors: YOU ARE DOING AMAZING! Though isolation has increased at-home responsibilities, my hope is that you have all grown closer to the special people in your lives and have been gentle with yourselves. As we come out of isolation and schools re-open, perhaps we can shift the focus from doing drills in preparation of tests, and instead spend time guiding the children in our lives through improving, or continuing to expand their social emotional learning – so that they may feel supported in navigating new norms with confidence and resilience. 

  Earlier this summer, I attended the virtual ConnectEd 2020 conference for teachers. The first keynote speaker was Marc Brackett, PhD; the director of the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence and author of Permission to Feel (linked below). He brought to light some very valuable tools and insights that I would like to share to perhaps spark some inspiration, motivation or even just curiosity. There is no right or wrong way to do something so should this interest you, this information can be adapted to the unique children in your life! 

Becoming an Emotion Scientist 

The goal of supporting the children in our lives in social emotional development is not perfection, but rather being open to staying curious, experimenting and fostering a growth mindset. 

RULER: Social Emotional Learning Framework 

So how do we approach emotionally stressful situations from the stance of an emotion scientist for the children and students in our lives? The RULER approach, developed by Marc Brackett, PhD., is applied to classrooms but also school districts and professional development workshops (see link for more details and tools). However, the acronym alone is a useful tool to frame an “emotion scientist” mindset: 

For Children: Tools, Vocabulary and Resources

Now that we have established the frame of mind to maintain when helping a child through a tantrum or feeling conundrum (can’t quite put their finger on what they feel), here are some tools you can teach them:

1.Meta Moments: One of four RULER tools developed by Marc Brackett is called Meta Moment which “provides a process for responding to emotional situations with strategies that align with one’s best-self and that support healthy relationships and personal well-being”. Optimally, classrooms would adopt this process into their daily classroom schedules so children practice and apply these skills on the playground, in the classroom and also as a form of self-regulation.

As a teacher, a commonality I have noticed (though not always the case) when guiding children through an emotional moment is they either get stuck at step 2 because they do not have an expansive “feeling” vocabulary to express how they truly feel or they are able to reach step 4 but do not have the strategies (step 5) to reach step 6. Of course, vocabulary and strategies improve overtime with learning and experience but what if we could provide some of those at an early age? 

2.Vocabulary and Strategy: Here are some ideas of strategies for helping children get specific about how they feel and what they need so they can fully express themselves. With practice and guidance from trusted adults, children will feel empowered thus boosting their self esteem and ability to be resilient! In return, parents/guardians/siblings/care-givers/teachers/mentors can learn about their OWN social emotional development which allows you to be more present and emotionally available to the children who need you most. It’s a win-win! 

3. Resources and Books 


Photo Source: Pinterest 

Marc Brackett Slides: Screenshots from the ConnectEd 2020 Conference