Written by Tonia Casarin
Whenever I ask parents what they want for their children, the answers are very similar. Almost everyone says they want happiness and success. But what can we do to make our children happy? Give the best gifts? Put them in the best schools? Spend more time with family?
Research shows that people who have developed their emotional intelligence have higher levels of happiness. Moreover, emotionally intelligent people are more successful in their academic and professional lives, improve their grades at school, have better jobs, and tend to earn more than those who have not developed their socio-emotional skills.
In short, emotional intelligence brings success and happiness in the long run. But what do the socio-emotional skills that are so much talked about today really mean?
What are socio-emotional skills?
Socio-emotional competencies or skills include the ability that everyone has to deal with their own emotions, develop self-knowledge, relate to others, and be able to collaborate, mediate conflicts, and solve problems. They are used in our daily lives and integrate the whole process of forming a person as an integral being: an individual, professional, active citizen of society.
In an increasingly technological world, socio-emotional skills have become even more important and fundamental for all people. The truth is that, as much as parents want to protect their children from difficulties, they will never be happy 100% of the time and will always have to face negative emotions at some point. However, although we classify emotions by differentiating them between positive and negative, it is essential to understand that all are important for our development. Knowing how to recognize, name, and deal with them is what will bring happiness and success throughout life.
How do children learn about emotions?
If it’s a challenge for adults to understand emotions, during childhood, children are still developing neural connections in the brain in regions that control emotions, cognition, language, and memory. Therefore, the stimuli during this phase are important to develop socio-emotional intelligence and define how they will deal with feelings during life.
As I conducted my research, I discovered in children’s books a simple way to develop socio-emotional skills in children. Stories can transport little ones to other worlds. They also work on creativity and are great sources of games, conversations, and the creation of affective bonds.
Empathy is also a socio-emotional skill that can be developed by reading. When the child identifies with a character, they begin to understand the feelings of other people and start to put themselves in their place. This was the reason why I wrote the collection How I Feel, which helps children playfully recognize their feelings.
In the collection of personalized books of How I Feel, the child is the protagonist of the books about happiness, frustration, fear, anxiety, and other emotions. Personalization further increases identification with examples from stories and encourages socio-emotional intelligence in childhood.
The role of the family in socio-emotional education
Encouraging reading during childhood is an example of a family habit that influences children’s development. Studies also show that one of the most important factors for this development and the happiness of children is the environment in which they live – that is, what the environment is like and how the relationships that the child experiences are established. This means it matters a lot how adults interact with children, especially in times of stress.