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News from Head of Early Years Centre, Michelle Stevens

16 October 2014

I believe that children learn best when their teachers are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about learning and teaching. This week as part of my personal learning journey, I created my own proffessional learning network which allows me to connect with other like minded individuals and also to keep abreast with the latest developments in global education.One of the threads I follow are the ‘Ted Talks’ and this week one of the talks delivered was on emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, the author of, ‘Emotional Intelligence’ describes it as ‘the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically’. I believe that it is our responsibility as adults to nurture emotional intelligence in our children. We should always seek to acknowledge their perspective and empathise with them. Empathising does not mean you agree, just that you see it from their side, too. We all know how good it feels to have our position acknowledged. Children develop empathy by experiencing it from others. It is good practice to allow children opportunities for expression. We need to accept childrens’ emotions rather than denying or minimising them, which gives them the message that some feelings are shameful or unacceptable. Our acceptance helps children accept their own emotions, which then allows them to resolve their feelings and move on. Like adults, children need their feelings listened to when expressing them. When we help our children feel safe enough to feel and express their emotions, we help them trust their own emotional process so they can handle their own emotions as they get older. We can teach them to solve their own problems. Most of the time, once kids feel their emotions are understood and accepted; the feelings lose their charge and begin to dissipate. Sometimes, kids can do these themselves, other times; they need your help to work through them.  Whilst tough, resist the urge to rush in and handle the problem for them unless they ask you to; that gives children the message that you don't have confidence in their ability to handle it themselves. Children experience big feelings on a daily basis.  They feel powerless and pushed around, angry, sad, frightened, and jealous. Emotionally healthy kids process these feelings with play, which is how little ones learn.  Helping your child “play” out his big inner conflicts lets them resolve them so they can move on to the next age-appropriate developmental challenge. All children need to express their feelings, but they also need to know how to find constructive solutions to problems. That takes practice and modelling on our part. Research shows that simply empathising with our children is insufficient to teach them to manage their feelings, because they still feel at the mercy of their emotions.  Teaching children to honour their feelings as signals about things they need to handle differently in their lives empowers them.

Michelle Stevens
Head of the Early Years Centre