Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 12:17 pm

Children with good emotional intelligence skills have been found to perform better in school, make better choices and manage complex social situation better than others.

Fortunately, emotional intelligence is a set of skills which can be taught and nurtured in our children – and the sooner we do, the better their ability to manage life’s ups and downs and become successful in life.

What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?

Emotional intelligence refers to our capacity to understand and manage our emotions. This has an influence on how we make decisions, how we deal with relationships and our ability to self-motivate.

The skills involved in emotional intelligence are self-awareness, emotional regulation, empathy, motivation and social skills.

As a parent, these are skills which you can nurture in your child to ensure that they grow to be well-adjusted, empathetic and sociable beings. While most children learn these skills as they grow and interact, there are certain things you can do with your child to help them cope better and be happier.

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The skills involved in emotional intelligence are self-awareness, emotional regulation, empathy, motivation and social skills


This refers to the ability to understand one’s own thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Having self-awareness also allows us to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, manage conflict and relate to others in a positive way.

How can I teach my child this skill?

  • Help your child to name a range of emotions that they (or others) experience
  • Instead of asking them how their day was, ask them “what made you smile today?”
  • Ask them to tell you a story about a feeling (using emojis helps to visualise this)

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Emotional regulation

This is the ability to express and deal with emotions in a way that is appropriate and helpful. While many emotions can feel intense for children, teaching them how to best control them is an essential skills which will benefit them later in life.

How can I teach my child this skill?

  • Help them identify and talk through what they are feeling
  • Do a mindfulness exercise with them – bring them back to the here and now
  • Get them to count to 10, take deep breaths, colour in or draw a picture


Empathy allows us to understand and share another person’s feelings – being able to put ourselves in their shoes.

How can I teach my child this skill?

  • Positively reinforce empathic behaviour when your child shows it
  • Connect feelings to thoughts and behaviour when you read stories or watch TV together
  • Speak openly and honestly about emotions (in an age-appropriate way)


This refers to the positive drive which helps us go for and achieve our goals. While children under seven are naturally motivated to learn, older children need more external motivation from others.

How can I teach my child this skill?

  • Express your gratitude and appreciation when they do something well or something positive
  • Use your child’s interests to motivate them
  • Encourage optimism and manage failure in context

Social skills

These are skills which help us communicate, manage the emotions of others, manage conflict and collaborate. A big part of this skill set involves empathy, which is vital when interacting with others.

How can I teach my child this skill?

  • Keep encouraging your child to communicate well – listening and speaking carefully
  • Role play with your child so they get to experience what it’s like “being” someone else
  • Problem-solve together and use play as examples for learning

Remember to be patient and consistent to ensure that your child has the time, space and support to learn what they need to.

Author: Reabetsoe Buys, Counselling Psychologist