Emotional Literacy

3 March 2017

The term emotional intelligence came into common usage following the success in the 1990s of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence; why it can matter more than IQ. Goleman pointed out that ‘success’ in life depends not only on our IQ as measured by our literacy and numeracy skills but, more importantly, on how well we know our own emotional make-up, manage our emotional responses and react to the emotional responses of others. Goleman’s emotional intelligence speaks to the topical issue today; the issue of emotional literacy.

Understanding emotional literacy is the key to help the young child develop self-esteem, self-control and so become socially and educationally successful. The National Early Childhood Care and Education Curriculum Guide wellness strand suggest that an environment need to be created which nurture children’s emotional well-being. It also states that children need to develop emotional competence which will help them to deal with their feelings appropriately.

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Emotional literacy is the ability to identify, understand, and to respond to emotions in oneself and others in a healthy manner. What it means to be emotionally literate: To be emotionally literate one has to develop a complex set of attitudes and skills. Skills can be learned and attitudes can be adopted if the environment the individual is in values and nurtures emotional literacy. Component skills that make up emotional literacy include: * Ability to reflect on one’s own emotions * Self-knowledge (understanding the reasons for one’s actions). Understanding of consequences * Self-control * Healthy self-image (feeling good about oneself, but also being able to acknowledge aspects of oneself that need developing). * Ability to empathise with others. * Understanding of the way others behave as they do. * Understanding how effective relationships are forged and sustained. * Ability to discuss feelings and emotions with others. * Recognition and acceptance of differences and different points of view. * Recognition of the complexity of emotions. Importance of Emotional Literacy:

Being emotionally literate enables one to make wiser decisions, develops better self and social awareness, stronger interpersonal relationships, and higher academic achievements. Science has noted that brain injuries preventing individuals from processing emotional information can lead directly to antisocial behaviors and unreliable decision-making. Emotional Literacy can act as a preventive tool to treat children against the serious danger they face in today’s society, such as, gang and drug issues etc.

It can also be a step towards turning an anxiety-dominated society into one of hope and salvation. Other Reasons of the Importance of Emotional Literacy include: * Emotional development in young children is important for their attainment as well as their well-being and success in all areas of development. * Targeting social and emotional development in young children are more likely to cause them to settle into their early years setting, * To grow to develop confidence and become cooperative * To learn to behave appropriately in varied situations. To strengthen healthy and balanced relationships. * To tolerate frustration better. * To be a healthy human being who is less lonely, less impulsive, more focused, and have greater academic achievement. Emotional Literacy contributes to setting the scene for Positive Behaviour in the Early Years Over the years we have seen a great deal of emphasis being placed on the cognitive and physical aspects of childhood development. Within recent times, more attention has been focused on the emotional developmental cycles of children.

The impact of a child’s relative emotional maturity or immaturity on their behaviour, performance and personal happiness is finally being recognised. Furthermore, the issue of lacking emotional health in young children has been acknowledged as part of childhood behavioural problems. Emotional literacy can be thought of as a set of skills that help learners to be successful in school, at work and in relationships. As a consequence of this, they are more likely to have robust self-esteem and be better placed to cope with disappointments and setbacks, which affect or influence behaviour.

Of late, those who have championed what might be termed the ‘self-esteem movement’ in schools regard emotional literacy as being closely connected to the building of self-esteem. Elizabeth Morris (2002) argues that it is hard to feel good about yourself if you don’t know yourself well, and if you can’t recognise and manage emotions such as anger and frustration. The more able you are to read body language and relate to other people and their emotional states, the more likely you are to be popular. Morris and other academics argue that this is what encourages a sense of belonging and builds self-esteem.

With the increase of emotional exclusion, a worrying trend in diminishing self-esteem in young children, and increasing numbers of young children being recognised as having ‘additional learning needs’ or presenting challenging behaviour, there is a growing pressure to find solutions. An infant/toddler’s capacity to learn and grow depends to a very significant extent on their ability to manage emotional tasks. Without the ability to be aware of their emotional states and self-management skills to contain and handle these, their development will suffer.

Without the ability to be aware of others, what they are feeling and to practice relationship management skills, their friendships and social support will vanish, as they become adults. There has also been a steady rise in recognition of the importance of sound self-esteem for young children. This recognition has emerged through psychological studies into behaviour disorders, learning difficulties and other disturbances to the development and maturation of infants and toddlers. This has coincided with research into human Emotional Literacy and the development of emotional literacy training programmes.

Emotional Literacy is now known to play a very significant part in achieving goals set, as well as being the foundation for personal satisfaction. To become effective learners, children in their early years, need to develop a strong sense of self-worth and confidence in their abilities. As they become older, they need to learn to take responsibility for their own learning and performance, and demonstrate persistence and resilience in the face of obstacles or setbacks, which will affect behaviour. Young children must also learn to manage their emotions and help others to do the same.

It is less to do with controlling emotions and more to do with recognising and understanding the effects of these emotional states and developing coping strategies. Infants/toddlers must also learn to understand that negative feelings can be valuable since they provide personal insights into thoughts, feelings and motivation to learn. Child-care workers must develop excellent emotional literacy programmes to support and develop children at every level of need. These will enable young children to learn the skills and abilities necessary to achieve greater emotional awareness, more emotional control and strong relationship building skills.

This in turn leads to higher emotional intelligence, and usually, sound self-esteem and positive behaviour. We have come to a juncture where we have recognized that emotional literacy is key to developing self-esteem and it does contribute to setting the scene for positive behaviour in the early years. Strategies teachers can use The questions arises what exactly are the skills or content necessary for our young children to become emotionally literate? What do we teach our young children to ensure they become emotionally literate?

Fostering Emotional Literacy in early years setting: Emotional literacy in early years setting starts with emotionally literate adults. Settings should have the following: * Zero tolerance towards teasing, name-calling, sarcasm and negative behaviour that staff may display. * Regular opportunities to deal with issues in a calm and supportive environment, e. g. in staff meetings. * Appropriate emotional support for each other (staff members). * Looking out for each other especially in stressful situations, e. g. allowing one member to take time out if necessary.

Gordon and Browne (2008) suggest that we teach the young children to deal with their feelings. There is a four-step approach suggested by Gordon and Browne that has a developmental sequence, where the learning at one level is built upon or is dependant on the learning at the previous level. This four step developmental sequence being advocated as necessary to teach young children how to deal with feelings is as follows: 1. To notice and label feelings 2. To accept feelings 3. To express feelings in an appropriate way 4. To deal with feelings of others 1) To notice and label feelings:

The first step towards emotional literacy is to be able to notice or identify the feelings and label them. According to Gordon and Browne the identification and labeling of feelings corresponds with Goleman’s “self-awareness” dimension. Leah Davies, M. Ed. also advocates that children who are taught to identify, express, and cope positively with their feelings develop useful life skills. As opposed to suppressing them as when negative emotions are suppressed, they usually resurface and cause problems Leah Davies, M. Ed. also purports. Strategies to help the child identify/notice and label feelings:

Help the children gain an understanding of their feelings through the use of books, board games, puppets, interactive storytelling or role-plays. b. Teach children to identify and verbalize their feelings, (For useful tools to promote emotional literacy, revisit www. kellybear. com. ) c. Teach the vocabulary of emotions. (e. g, I am sorry). Introduce new words to extend the child’s vocabulary; for example, happy might also be excited, cheerful or smiley. * If we lack the words to express how we feel we will not be able to tell others, let alone process those feelings internally. Show acceptance of a child’s feelings and use feeling words yourself so they become a part of everyday life. 2) Accept feelings: Children very often express very strong feelings and they must be taught how to deal with these feelings without letting the feelings overwhelm them. These can be strong feelings of love or anger, sadness or confusion. It is important to help children recognize that these strong feelings will not stay with them all the time and also help them work through the feelings, feeling safe. Strategies to help the child accept feelings: a.

Be empathetic to children in the environment b. Be observant to recognise when a child is experiencing such strong emotions so that you can help them accept the emotions to allow the child to * Express these emotions in a safe setting and work through these sad or scared moments * Recover their exposure with some empathy from others * Develop the zeal or persistence to work through future sad or scared moments 3) Express feelings in an appropriate way As purported by Gordon and Browne (2008) To be able to express feelings appropriately students must be able to:

First: feel free to express their feelings. The environment must be a psychologically and emotionally safe climate so that children are not afraid or inhibited in any way in the expression of their feelings. Second: they must learn ways of expression that are suitable to their age and to the situation. Strategies to help children express their feelings in an appropriate way: a. Avoid negative statements like, “Can’t you do anything right? ” or “What’s your problem? ” These comments discourage open communication and suggest that when a child does not behave perfectly, he or she is “bad. ” b.

Avoid moralizing (“That was wrong of you! “); humiliating (“I can’t believe you did that. “); lecturing (“You should have known better. “); denying (“You’ll be okay. “); pitying, (“Poor you. It’s all their fault. “); and rescuing, (“I’ll take care of it. “). Instead, listen patiently and nod your head appropriately. Remember that questions can often lead the child away from the real problem or cause the child to stop talking. c. Accept emotional responses as legitimate, even if you don’t like the behavior the feelings produce. For example, when a child hits, the feeling of anger is demonstrated.

Stop the child and say, “It’s okay to feel angry; it’s not okay to hurt others. Talk to me about what you are feeling. ” Help the child manage his emotions as Goleman suggests. d. Communicate understanding and empathy by reflecting the observed emotion. For example, say, “You seem sad” or “You seem upset. ” Then, if the child confirms your reflection and begins talking, be quiet and listen. (See “Helping Children Cope with Anger” in Teacher Ideas, www. kellybear. com . ) e. Watch a child’s facial expressions, posture, play or art work for signs that a child is experiencing a strong negative emotion.

Then offer constructive ways to defuse it, such as painting, dialogue or taking a “time out. ” f. Problem solve with the child by encouraging him or her to think of options and decide what constructive action to take. (See “Ten Ways to Foster Resiliency in Children” in Teacher Ideas, www. kellybear. com . ) g. Keep lines of communication open. You might say something like: “Emily, I am glad you told me about your mom’s illness. It must be hard to have her in the hospital. Please know that I care about you and that I am here if you want to talk again. ” 4) Deal with feelings of others

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