Teach Emotional Intelligence

Vital Life Preparation for All

Learning how to manage our emotions is a vital life skill. From an early age, talking about emotions should be the norm, but sadly, in many households, this is not the case. Photo credit: Rhendi Rukmana / unsplash

I stumbled across this quote the other day:

‘There is a point in every young person’s life when you realise that the youth that you’ve progressed through and graduated to some sort of adulthood is equally as messed up as where you’re going.’ Jena Malone, US actress.

It’s as funny as it is true. We always thinking we’re heading for something better and yet we feel disenchanted when we never get there. The point is that we are journeying through life, and often the ‘something better’ isn’t visible to an untrained eye. My gripe is that when we are growing up, we’re not given any kind of training to deal with the emotional rollercoaster. Nevertheless, we join the queue for the ride without any clue of what’s next.

The result? Life is harder as we grow up than it should be.

I’m not saying there aren’t definite perks to adulthood. Having the ability to make big decisions about key aspects of life is as liberating as it is terrifying. And let’s not forget that anarchic feeling when you stumble into your first-owned apartment after a night on the razzle, looking like a gorilla shot by a tranquiliser gun. Yep, that’s truly a ‘grown up’ moment.

But other than some incidents warranting an emoji thumbs up, the day-to-day slog is really something I would have wanted forewarning about. I don’t recall a parent or anyone sitting me down and saying something along the lines of, ‘Listen my dear, sometimes when you are older, things still don’t make much sense, so be ready for the days when you want to pull up the duvet or perhaps strangle a loved one.’ Just something short and honest.

Ok, so I might not have really understood what that meant at a young age — but I still want that guidance. Even if it just meant I would stumble upon that lightbulb moment later on, ‘Ah ha, so that’s what they were talking about.’ I want that headsup. That kind of information should be talked about freely, otherwise when most young folk hit adulthood — they think they have done something radically wrong, which landed them up in this mess.

Even better approach would be to TEACH us this kind of stuff in school, where we spend decades of our lives soaking up other people’s messes. School can offer the perfect platform for teaching EQ, enabling children to identify emotions and how to deal with specific (likely) situations they will encounter in the future. If teachers at school can be trained to give these lessons, it takes the heat off our parents. Let’s face it, parents are probably so deep into coping mechanisms, its tough to forewarn off-spring when you’re juggling school schedules, work-life and attempting to make dinner on time. Rather use a friendly teacher, they don’t have to be a new-age disciple — but someone who takes inner growth seriously. Frankly, it is a whole lot more useful to learn about how to cope with big-life situations, than colouring in pointless handouts for homework.

There are schools that teach emotional intelligence, but this kind of self-awareness and regulation should be a global standard for young developing minds. It should be part of curriculum in every school without exception.

Schools can teach pupils to understand where these emotions come from and how to regulate them. If this is done early enough, our brains will build these neural pathways, allowing creativity and lucid decision-making. If not, we often survive with our old brain as captain of the ship. And this, inevitably, leads to feeling scared, trapped and lonely.

I don’t believe that life is about ‘coping’, which is what most of us do every minute and every day. It’s not easy to feel connected in every-day activities. It’s the daily grind, the habitual treadmill. We all want to start yoga and meditation, but in a busy world, these tasks can just go to the bottom of the to-do list, giving us another reason to feel we’re failing or not succeeding like everyone else.

If life is about exploring, learning and embracing new parts of ourselves, the earlier this is encouraged, the better. It sets our children up for a new world, one that is filled with curiosity and expansion. Rather than doubt and panic at what we cannot control. In the words of Yehuda Berg, we can teach ourselves to ‘greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.’ Now that’s more interesting than any class I went to at school.