Emotional education from an early age involves validating emotions, empathizing, helping identify and name what you are feeling, setting limits, teaching appropriate forms of expression and relationship with others, caring and accepting oneself, respecting the others, and proposing strategies to solve problems. In the book El yo infantil y sus circunstancias (The Infant I and its Circumstances), I propose basic themes such as emotional awareness and regulation, self-esteem, social-emotional skills, among others.
From the eighth month to the first year of life, the purest emotions may be identified by their expressiveness. Thus, it is possible to recognize joy, irritation, anger, fear, sadness, pleasure … With the advent of the two years of age, emotions become more complex and variants of the above emerge, such as shame or branches of affection, jealousy for example. The child is a unique being and his emotional world is very diverse, subjective and made up of a multiplicity of components.
Throughout our work in education, we must discover how each student builds his emotional universe and take into account the crucial moment in which he reaches three years of age, moment in which he begins to relate and organize his emotions into different categories. Later on, between the ages of four and six, children perceive that their behavior produces reactions in others and begin to control their impulses to achieve greater emotional stability and begin their development of moral behavior.
How can we contribute to the emotional development of children during these early years?
- Incorporating emotional variants in their games
- Understanding their imaginary stories
- Talking about emotions experienced by people
- Listening to their emotional questions and doubts with affection and a certain degree of empathy
- Observing which emotions are most uncomfortable for them
- Encouraging them to speak and express their feelings
- Providing them security and trust
- Showing them alternatives to channel anger, aggression and fear
It is important to channel the children’s emotions for them to be able to attain emotional self-control, accompanied by intelligence and linked to social and moral values.
The importance of good emotional education: the expression of affection
When children show us their affection, we are instantly captivated. Their kisses, embraces and caresses are the first manifestations of emotional development. In accordance with these statements, it is very opportune to mention their need of emotional education to help them identify their feelings in order to establish good relationships with others. How may we contribute from an adult’s perspective? In the first place, we can remain receptive to their loving demonstrations, thank them and invite them to externalize their affection in the most natural way possible. The next step will be to encourage them to do so, but without pressure, for them to always express with spontaneity.
We will be models for them if we express affection:
- Loving without reserves and unconditionally
- Remembering them of our love, even if we think they don’t need to hear it from us
- Correcting their behavior without disqualifications
- Providing hugs, caresses and exchanging confidence, security and complicity looks
- Staying at their side as they grow, sharing their achievements and frustrations
Children need a minimum foundation to feel secure and experience self-confidence. They need an adequate education that encourages their emotional intelligence to be able to channel emotions in their pure state, revise, rework and externalize them in front of others.
According to the article “Emotional Intelligence” by Peter Salovey and John Mayer (1990), it is possible to define emotional intelligence as the ability to monitor our own and the others’ feelings and emotions, discriminate between them, and use this information to guide our thoughts and actions.
When we educate, not only must we attend concepts and knowledge, it becomes essential to address emotions so as to complete the global process of learning.
Guidelines for action: emotional education in school
Where there is understanding, harmonious education of the person and his environment may occur; therefore, breathing a more peaceful atmosphere is made possible. To enhance human value the quality of education must improve.
It is fundamental to start in nursery school with a type of emotional education that incorporates a vocabulary in which at least the five basic emotions are identified: anger, fear, sadness, joy and love. Children will be able to notice when each of them appears, with what gestures to express them and what they provoke. Later on, children will realize that by combining these emotions, we experience the feelings learnt throughout life when we associate them with certain situations. Then, they will differentiate needs from desires, learn to wait, thank, talk, make friends, have a sense of humor, social manners and basic skills.
If we approach education with a global vision, we will respect the human being, because all his dimensions are intertwined, and we will then offer a system of signs for his appropriate expression, we will meet his basic needs and feelings, help him mature emotionally, socialize, understand the interrelationship of everything that exists and develop his ethical world.
Three fundamental principles for developing emotional education in school
- Children will learn that only when an emotion is recognized and identified, it can be controlled (the principle of “managing emotions”).
- From the earliest years, children will learn they need to know how to listen in order to pay attention to others: active and / or empathic listening.
- Children will learn that all the stimuli received through senses transform us, thus care must be taken of these “bridges to reality” (the senses) so as not to miss opportunities to capture information from the outside world.