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How to teach your kids emotional intelligence and life skills

How to teach your kids emotional intelligence and life skills
From Global News - September 3, 2017

Your kids are learning math, English and science in the classroom, but what about emotional intelligence, resiliency and conscientiousness?

While theres so much emphasis on measuring success through grades and academic achievement, kids need to learn about emotional stability, managing relationships and other life skills ranging from optimism to determination and control, experts say.

We have to look at it as an art and science just like we teach kids math or spellingwe cant assume kids know these skills, Dr. Shimi Kang, a Vancouver-based psychiatrist and parenting author, told Global News.

There are so many benefits that last over a lifetime from understanding mental health to better job prospects, financial stability, strong relationships. These are things we want for our kids, Ann Douglas, a Canadian parenting expert and bestselling author, said.

READ MORE: These 5 life skills are the key to happiness, wealth, and healthy aging

Earlier this year, a University College London study identified five life skills thatll bring people happiness, healthy aging, wealth and career success. The soft skills were:

Turns out, people who held onto these attributes and made them a part of who they are fared better in the long run across a handful of measures.

Douglas points to collaboration, problem-solving and empathy as other skills that are invaluable.

So how do we teach these skills to kids? The experts offered their suggestions:

Teach kids to give back: When Kang runs summer camps with kids, she includes Contribution Fridaysthe kids work together as a team to make sandwiches for the homeless and dole out the food in shelters.

They have to get the ingredients, make the sandwiches and decorate the lunch bags. Its that common goal with a greater purpose and helps kids get along better, Kang said.

READ MORE: Back to school checklist for families

They feel like theyre doing something important that matters to the world. It makes them feel happy and feel good, she explained.

Kids can volunteer at an old folks home, a homeless shelter or at a local toy drive. The act of charity teaches them to give back to their community and the intrinsic value that comes with it.

Teach them to feel empathy: Challenge your child to be curious about other peoples feelings and perspectives on life. That way, theyll consider what other people may be thinking or why they act the way they do, Douglas said.

The easiest way to do this is with the help of fictional characters in movies or books they may be fans of.

Take the opportunity to step into the heads of other characters and ask why they think the main character or their stepsister acted that way. Ask your kids what he or she may be feeling, Douglas said.

Give them space to make mistakes: Your kids need to learn that every action comes with a result, but you need to give them autonomy to make their choices, according to Alyson Schafer, a parenting expert and bestselling author based in Ontario.

Give them room on a smaller scale: If your daughter doesnt want to wear bug spray, give her that wiggle room for one day. If parents allow the outcome of the experience, she doesnt wear bug spray and shes now itchy, Schafer said.

READ MORE:Why forgiving others will improve your physical, emotional health

Its about understanding kids have a say in their lives and there is a cause and effect in what they do and the choices they make. Dont rob kids of their ability to make decisionsgive them chances to make small mistakes and have some agency in their lives, Schafer said.

Teach kids resiliency and to look at the big picture: Life wont always go our way and kids need to learn how to deal with disagreement that can feel so huge and overwhelming in the moment, Douglas said.

Your child could get berries all over their favourite sweater and theyre upset. Remind him or her that in a week, a month or a year from now, they probably wont even remember.

Their classmates could be invited to a birthday party while theyre not. Acknowledge the hurt feelings but help them realize that the hurt will blow over.

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Explain to kids that its possible to deal with crushing disappointment in the moment and that it does get easier over time, Douglas said.

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