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How To Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: Teaching Self-Awareness & Empathy

Introduction: Why is Emotional Intelligence in Children Important?

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is important in all stages of life but especially during childhood. EQ refers to a person’s ability to identify, understand, and manage their emotions. It is an important factor when it comes to determining academic and social success. Children who can recognize and effectively manage their own emotions are better equipped to manage relationships with classmates, develop healthy coping techniques, and stay focused in the classroom. Furthermore, children who practice empathy and emotional understanding can become more successful adults, as they will learn how to respect others and understand their feelings. All in all, emotional intelligence is essential for children to engage in healthy interactions, form meaningful relationships, and respond to stressful situations in emotionally appropriate ways.

It’s never too early to start teaching emotional intelligence. In fact, it is best to start introducing concepts of self-awareness and empathy to children as early as possible. While some children may come equipped with strong emotional intelligence skills, other children may need more guidance. The good news is that emotional intelligence is a skill, so it can be learned with practice.

Teaching Self-Awareness in Children

Developing emotional intelligence is a vital life skill for children. It helps to equip them with the necessary abilities and tools to navigate their social, academic and personal lives in a healthier and more productive manner. Self-awareness is an important component of developing emotional intelligence. It involves being able to recognize and identify one’s own thoughts, feelings and reactions and understand how they impact our behaviors. Teaching self-awareness to children can be done in a few ways to help them better understand their feelings, reactions and actions.

Methods to Help Kids Understand Their Own Emotions

Talking about emotions is a good starting point – from a young age, children need to be comfortable enough to discuss and express their feelings openly with others. Guide them by using simple language to explain their emotions. Ask questions like “What are you feeling right now? How do you think those feelings make you act or respond in certain situations?”

Model the behavior you wish to see in your child. The best way to teach a concept is to lead by example. Show them that you are mindful of your own emotions and willing to talk about them in an appropriate manner. Encourage open communication and foster a non-judgmental environment so they won’t feel scared about expressing themselves.

Let your child make mistakes and take responsibility for their actions. As they learn to take ownership of their mistakes, it will create a sense of self-awareness and understanding that often leads to better decision-making.

Lastly, regularly remind your kids to be aware of their feelings and acknowledge when their emotions are getting the best of them. When they start to get frustrated, angry or overwhelmed, help them to identify and label the feelings and suggest methods for calming down.

Examples of Self-Awareness Exercises

Self-awareness activities, when done regularly, can help children recognize and gain control of their emotions. Examples of such activities include journaling, meditation, mirror work, art, music, and yoga.


Journaling encourages kids to articulate their thoughts and feelings, both on paper and in their minds. It’s a form of self-discovery that teaches kids how to better understand their own emotions and differentiate between positive and negative feelings. For example, have your child write down 3 good things that happened that day and three things they are grateful for.


Mindfulness meditation is a great technique to teach children how to become more aware of their inner world, as well as their feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations. Have your child sit in a comfortable position with their eyes closed and focus on their breathing. The goal is to observe their thoughts and emotions without judgment.

Mirror Work

Mirror work is a practice that encourages kids to look themselves in the eye and speak to themselves. This activity helps kids learn to accept themselves as they are, and to become mindful that their thoughts and actions have an impact on their future. This activity may be practiced daily or weekly depending on your child’s comfort level.

Art, Music, and Yoga

Creative activities such as art, music, and yoga can help kids become self-aware by tapping into their inner creative space. Art activities such as drawing, creating collages, and making music can help children express their emotions without using words. Similarly, yoga helps kids develop awareness of their body and mind, as well as their physical and emotional boundaries.

Teaching Empathy: Understanding Other’s Feelings

Developing empathy is essential for kids, as it helps them to understand perspectives different from their own. It has been found that children who develop strong empathy skills are better able to cope with emotions and relationships later in life.

The ability to empathize comes from recognizing, understanding, and responding to the feelings of others. Kids can learn to identify the body language, facial expressions, and words of those around them to gain a better understanding of how someone might be feeling. This can help them to react appropriately and respond in the most helpful way.

When teaching empathy, it is important to emphasize that everyone feels differently and that all emotions are valid. Showing kids that everyone experiences emotions differently can help them to have more respect for others.

It is also important to highlight that empathy should not only be used for those we care about but for anyone, even strangers. Rather than simply sympathizing, kids can develop compassion and understanding of others’ feelings and situations. This can help create a stronger sense of community and respect.

Empathy can be developed in children through conversations, role-play, and activities. By providing a safe and encouraging environment, teachers can help kids practice and strengthen their empathy skills.

Discuss Examples of Empathy Exercises

It is important to provide practical ways for kids to learn about empathy. Examples of empathy exercises can help children to better understand other people’s feelings, and also cultivate their own empathy skills. Here are some ideas of empathy exercises that you can use with your children:

  • Role-playing: Role-playing can be used to help kids explore different points of view and empathize with different situations. Provide a scenario and have the child role-play different characters in the situation. Ask them questions to help them consider how the different characters might feel.
  • Empathy stories: Reading stories together is a great way to engage children and encourage them to think about issues from another’s perspective. Look for stories with age-appropriate content that highlight empathy and compassion.
  • Body language: Kids learn a lot through observation, so take time to point out body language in everyday situations. Teach kids to look for signs of tension or uneasiness in a person and discuss how they might respond in a compassionate way.
  • Acts of kindness: Teaching your children how to extend acts of kindness to others is one of the most effective ways to promote empathy. Encourage your kids to give compliments, help someone in need, or send a kind note to a friend.

These empathy exercises will help your children develop empathy skills and can be adapted to different situations. The key is to create safe and supportive environments in which your children can explore different points of view and practice empathy.

Identifying and Communicating Feelings

Helping children identify and communicate their emotions is a critical component of promoting emotional intelligence in children. Doing so in a healthy way gives kids the tools they need to process their feelings in a constructive manner.

Kids may have difficulty expressing their feelings due to lack of vocabulary, so it is important to give them the language they need in order to describe their emotions. For example, if a child is feeling “angry”, it can be helpful to suggest words like “irritated”, “annoyed”, or “frustrated”. It is also important to show examples of how those feelings are expressed both verbally and physically, as this will help kids recognize and understand their own emotions.

Once kids are able to identify their feelings, it is important to help them learn how to communicate them effectively. This could involve providing constructive ways to share their feelings, such as talking through the problem with a trusted adult, journaling, or using self-soothing strategies like deep breathing or stretching.

These communication techniques should be practiced regularly in order for kids to become comfortable expressing their feelings to others. Encourage kids to practice talking about their feelings with peers, teachers, and family members in order to help them build the skills necessary to effectively manage their emotions.


In conclusion, emotional intelligence is a crucial component in the development of children. Teaching them how to become self-aware and to understand the emotions of others can allow them to succeed in their personal and professional interactions. Taking the time to teach children why this skill set is essential will benefit them in the long run.

By educating and providing examples of self-awareness and empathy exercises, children can better understand their own emotions and develop the ability to relate to others. Learning how to identify and communicate feelings allows children to connect with those around them and help build meaningful relationships.

Fostering emotional intelligence in children is an incredibly important task. Developing these skills during childhood forms a strong foundation for later success in life.

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