What Is Emotional Literacy And Why Is It Important?

October 25, 2022

Defined as the ability to understand, express, and cope with a wide spectrum of emotions, emotional literacy lies at the heart of happiness, self-esteem, and above all, positive relationships. 

Nurturing emotional literacy brings about long-term benefits for children. Some of them include: 

  • Learning to self-calm and regulate their emotions
  • Developing resiliency, allowing them to respond better under stressful situations
  • Expressing and communicating their feelings 
  • Developing social skills like empathy, sharing, and turn-taking with their peers
  • Developing positive relationships with people around them
  • Having an increased chance of success during adulthood. Results from a 19-year research had shown that children who were able to share, cooperate, and follow instructions from their preschool years were more likely to advance into higher education and hold full-time jobs by the time they turned 25. 

Incredulous as you may think it might be, the benefits of emotional literacy make sense – a child who can calm themselves down when they feel overwhelmed is likely to perform better in difficult situations. A child who can healthily express their emotions is more likely to maintain better and more positive relationships than a child who screams or says mean things when angry. 

Most children are able to pick up emotional intelligence skills. They simply need us, the adults, to teach them how. However, unlike other developmental and academic milestones that children are expected to reach by a certain age, becoming emotionally literate is a more dynamic process that requires nurturing and attention from parents and educators throughout childhood. 

Key Emotional Literacy Skills 

1. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to recognise and understand your own emotions. Known to be a critical emotional intelligence skill, self-awareness also goes beyond just recognising your emotions. It also includes being aware of the effect your actions, moods, and emotions have on others. To become more self-aware, children have to learn to recognise and correctly identify each particular emotion – this helps them understand the relationship between the things they feel and how they behave. 

The first step to identifying emotions is helping children put a label on how they feel. For instance, when a child is upset they have lost a game, we can say, “it looks like you are angry now. Is that right?” Or, “are you feeling sad that you lost the game?” Using emotional words such as “angry”, “sad”, “happy”, “excited”, and more contributes to building a child’s vocabulary to express feelings. 

2. Self-Regulation

Aside from being aware of emotions and the impact your child has on others, emotional literacy requires them to regulate and manage how they feel. But, this does not mean putting their emotions on lockdown or hiding their true feelings. It simply means waiting for the right time and place to express them. Children skilled in self-regulation tend to be more flexible and adaptable to change. 

Hence, instead of screaming and throwing tantrums or things, children may be able to express their emotions in a socially appropriate way. Some examples could include saying things like “my feelings are hurt” or even getting them to draw facial expressions like a happy face on a piece of blank paper. Parents are also encouraged to use feeling words in everyday conversations and practise talking about them. You can say things like “I feel angry when I see children being mean to each other on the playground” or “I feel happy that your friends are coming over.”

Additionally, your child can learn specific skills from their preschool in Singapore. One such way includes learning to take bubble breaths – inhale through their nose and exhale through their mouth. 

3. Problem-Solving Skills

A critical part of building emotional intelligence involves learning how to solve problems. So, after the feelings have been labelled and addressed, It is time your child works through how to fix the problem. Perhaps your child is angry that their younger sibling keeps taking their toy. Help them identify a few ways they might be able to solve this problem. While solutions do not always have to be good ideas, the goal is to just assess the pros and cons of each one before encouraging them to pick the best option. 

On the other hand, when your child makes mistakes, you can also work through what could have been done differently and what they could do to resolve lingering issues. For example, MindChamps Preschool educators often take on the role of a coach rather than the actual problem-solver. They provide guidance when necessary, but most of all, they work on helping your child discover that they can solve problems on their own effectively.  

Making Emotional Literacy An Ongoing Goal

No matter how emotionally intelligent your child may seem, there is  always room for improvement. As they grow older, they are also more likely to face obstacles as well as ups and downs in life that may challenge their skills. Hence it is important to incorporate skill-building strategies into their everyday life. 

At MindChamps Preschool, not only is our preschool curriculum backed by years of research but our playgroup and kindergarten also nurture every aspect of your child’s development. Whether it is learning how to count or understanding their feelings, our preschool activities and learning experience strive to help every child pick up new skills and reach key milestones by instilling positive values that will stay with them for life. 

Want to learn more about our unique pedagogy and how our preschool curriculum can help develop your child’s emotional literacy? Simply book a visit to any of our preschools in Singapore today!