Nowadays young people find themselves under a lot of pressure, which makes them feel constantly stressed and worried. One of the main contributors to young people’s stress is the rising popularity and ubiquitous use of social media platforms, notably Facebook and Instagram.
Truth be told, there is no shortage of stress in young people’s lives: studies, personal relationships, peer pressure, decisions about their future career not to mention the ongoing pandemic. If children and young people do not know how to efficiently deal with these inevitable life stressors they are at heightened risk of developing serious mental health problems. In fact, 7.1% of American children aged 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety and 3.2 of children have been diagnosed with depression.
Anxiety can prevent children from making friends, participating in school activities, and even raising a hand in class. An anxious child is more likely to feel ashamed, afraid, and alone. An anxious child is also likely to be fatigued, restless, and highly irritable.
Unfortunately, poor understanding of how to deal with stress and anxiety prompts young people to find their own ways of “relieving stress” and “relaxation” such as cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. As statistical data shows, substance abuse is a common problem among youngsters. 66% of students have tried alcohol by 12th grade. About 50% of 9-12 graders reported using marijuana and 40% of 9-12 graders reported using cigarettes.
It is common knowledge that substance abuse can negatively affect the brain development of teens, make them more likely to engage in risky behaviors (such as unprotected sex or dangerous driving), and even makes them prone to developing health problems (heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders). Apart from making teenagers more violent and aggressive, alcohol also predisposes them to suicide.
So how can children and young adults learn to deal with stress and anxiety? Well, they can do so by developing emotional intelligence, which according to Jeanne Segal, it can be defined.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.
The development of emotional intelligence is contingent on the development of many skills. One of the crucial components of emotional intelligence is self-awareness – the ability to understand your own emotions and their influence on your performance. When people are self-aware, they know how they feel and why they have an accurate understanding of their strengths and limitations as well as realistic self-confidence. Interestingly, even though most people believe that they are self-aware, only 10-15% of them actually are.
Empathy – the ability to emotionally appreciate other people’s feelings – is another important skill associated with emotional intelligence. It helps people build meaningful relationships and it is an important capability that all people must acquire in order to progress and continue with their lives. In the world we are living in, unfortunately, most people are still lacking empathy and most people are not really listening to others, but just waiting for their turn to speak and communicate their personal views. Possessing emotional intelligence can remedy this and help people improve the quality of their interpersonal relationships significantly.
Possessing emotional intelligence also implies having good social skills, that is, managing one’s and others’ emotions, interacting with others, persuading and influencing people, managing and resolving conflicts, building bonds, and building other forms of meaningful relations with people.
Having emotional intelligence does not only improve one’s mental health, but it also has other important benefits. First of all, research suggests that individuals with emotional intelligence are more creative. Secondly, scholars have proven that emotional intelligence immensely contributes to people’s career success. Indeed, every person at work will have to navigate a multitude of emotions on a regular basis, and employers with emotional intelligence will not allow their emotions to inform their decisions and will achieve better results. This is why, the ability to act logically and resist impulsive behavior, is a highly-valued trait for working professionals.
So, how do we support the development of emotional intelligence in young people? According to Bradley Busch, a psychologist, there are several strategies that can help educators:
Strategies That Can Help Educators Develop Intelligence
- encouraging students to be active listeners in the classroom and genuinely follow the dialogue
- helping students develop a vocabulary for feelings and encouraging them to understand the difference between such words as “sad”, “disappointed” and “upset”.
- Encouraging students to read books as research suggests that this is a great way to develop empathy
- Remind students that emotional management skills could be constantly developed.
- Acknowledge young learners’ perspectives and empathize with them;
- Allow more expression in the classroom;
- Establish a culture of emotional intelligence in the classroom,
In our Shiminly courses, we focus on a variety of skills, aimed at developing emotional intelligence in our young learners. We equip them with techniques and skills that enable them to cope with stress and anxiety, train children to cultivate empathy, encourage them to think critically and listen to other students. As part of training on emotional intelligence, we also teach children how to resist peer pressure and how to foster their confidence.