Life is more than being academically brilliant. Being emotionally smart has its benefits too.
WORDS RACHEL KWEK
In a world where thinking is often valued more than feeling, how important is being in touch with your emotions? Does it matter to you if your child excels academically but is unable to tell you how he feels? A child who lacks emotional awareness will find it hard to manage his emotions. This can lead to unhealthy ways of expressing emotions such as overeating when he is happy. The build-up of negative emotions could also show up as stress symptoms like anxiety and emotional outbursts. In severe instances, a child who is unable to manage his negative emotions may become depressed or feel his emotional distress as physical pain (somatoform disorder).
Possessing a heightened awareness and understanding of oneself and others’ emotions has many benefits. According to Daniel Koh, psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, being able to manage emotions well means a child is emotionally stable, less impulsive and more aware of how his behaviour affects others. Consequently, he is happy and healthy and is inclined to behave in ways that would elicit favourable responses from others.
The ability to read others’ emotions accurately also means that an emotionally intelligent
child can respond appropriately in various social situations.
For instance, he may offer to accompany a friend whom
he feels is feeling distressed or frightened.
Similarly, he may hold back from asking something from his parents if he senses that they are not in a good mood. Additionally, he is able to take advantage of his understanding of emotions to do things better or prevent unpleasant consequences. For example, Daniel Goleman who published his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ says a child with high EI may choose to analyse things when they are sad if they know that sadness promotes analytical thought in him; when he senses that talking to his angry sister might get him a scolding, he may choose to talk to someone else instead. Overall, his sensitivity towards others enables him to build positive relationships with others who also tend to like him. Conversely, a child with low emotional intelligence tends to be unhappy and have an impaired ability to connect with others.
Dr Wendy Sinnathamby, specialist in paediatrics and consultant, Raffles Children’s Centre adds that emotional intelligence contributes to good physical and mental health, ethical development and lays a good foundation for developing into a good citizen with decreased tendency to partake in risky behaviour. Acquiring emotional intelligence is especially important for people who are hypersensitive to emotions. Being painfully aware of how they and other people feel, these children risk bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders and may become overwhelmed and stressed.