Emotional Intelligence Games
As an adult, think about a time when a partner wasn’t being considerate of your feelings, or maybe they didn’t even notice that you were feeling anything out of the ordinary to begin with. Now think of a time when you were feeling frustrated, anxious, or irritable but you weren’t sure why or how to fix it. How about a time when your friend seemed down about something, insisted they were ok, but you could tell something was definitely off? Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to identify, evaluate, control, and express emotions. It also involves the ability to recognize and effectively respond to the emotional states of other people.
That ability to read emotions and identify the cause of those emotions is a crucial life skill that can have a tremendous impact on our own personal wellbeing, our social interactions, and our meaningful relationships. Research shows that emotional intelligence is a greater predictor of success in life than a high IQ alone, and if you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. In both personal and professional situations, imagine the benefits of being able to tell when something you’ve said or done has made another person happy, angry, annoyed, entertained, upset, or uncomfortable. Now imagine if you couldn’t read those social cues and if you couldn’t tell how others were feeling. How on earth could you properly build relationships, communicate, or be sure if your words or actions were having their intended impact? How could you thrive as an adult without also having the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions?
Considering all we do to support the healthy growth and development of our children, it’s important that Emotional Intelligence doesn’t go overlooked. It can come naturally to some people more than others, but steps can be taken to develop this crucial skill. In very young children, it can begin simply with helping your child to identify different emotions when they feel them. Helping them label their own emotions (e.g. “You seem to be feeling sad right now”) can help them begin to express their feelings more effectively. If you’ve ever had to tell a mid-tantrum child to “use their words,” then you know what I’m talking about. Consider using a game like Moogy to help your child begin to label emotions and explore why someone might be feeling sad, happy, or frustrated.
The next step would be to support your child in learning to identify feelings in others. These “I Heard Your Feelings” flash cards are a great way to introduce this skill, as they allow kids to practice recognizing emotional dynamics in a variety of situations through the use of kid-friendly illustrations. They have guiding questions included that walk children through the process of figuring out what’s happening in the picture, how the characters might be feeling, and why. When children can begin to identify emotions in others, there’s also an opportunity to begin teaching them empathy, which is an important part of becoming a sensitive and considerate person.
Snoots Toots is a game where kids role-play their way through a variety of situations regarding manners and empathy, teaching them what it’s like putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding what they might be feeling. The Talking, Feeling, and Doing game is another one that includes a variety of questions and scenarios for kids to talk through. This game has an added benefit of allowing parents the opportunity to get a sense of their child’s thought process and psycho-dynamics, as well as situations and experiences that are most relevant for the child at that time. As they work to imagine how each scenario might play out and reap the benefits of working through how those situations might look for someone, parents get the added benefit of learning more about their child’s perspective. Another option, The Helping, Sharing, and Caring Game, also supports the development of empathy and sympathy, and includes a broader range of social-emotional concepts in addition, such as self-esteem, manners, safety, ethics, values, health, consideration for others, interpersonal relations, and competence.
Once children are able to grasp the concept of feelings, can communicate them clearly, and even read and understand them in others, another important step is to educate them about how to cope with and respond to them. Teaching healthy coping mechanisms and sound decision-making is vital to a child’s growth into a balanced and well-developed person. The My Feelings game is a great start to practicing how to cope with feelings in socially acceptable ways. Q’s Race to the Top is another game where children advise the main character on what he should do in various social scenarios, allowing them to practice good manners, coping skills, and adopting a positive attitude. The game also asks questions of the players, allowing for great conversations and opportunities for kids to share their perspective.
A lesson on decision-making wouldn’t be complete without a lesson on consequences and the idea that our choices and responses always have an effect. When you’re working through possible responses to emotions, it’s important to note the possible results of those responses. There’s always a possibility of choosing an emotional response that doesn’t go so well (Am I right?). In What Should You Do – A Game of Consequences, players face everyday dilemmas and learn that there are consequences for every choice, good and bad.