The short answer is yes. The tricky question to answer is the how. When you realize that the quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life, it’s easy to understand the importance of robust relational intelligence. Furthermore, whether you’re relating to yourself, a friend, or a concept, your experience will elicit an emotional response. How you understand, manage and integrate that response is largely dependent on your level of emotional intelligence (EQ).
In other words, the degree to which you have the tools to navigate your emotional states in healthy ways largely determines your happiness and ability to succeed in all aspects of life. After all, every part of life involves relating.
Emotional intelligence is not a skill reserved for adulthood. Rather, studies show that EQ is developed in early life with children’s brains adapting quickly to include concepts like empathy. Exposure to good literature that illustrates human emotion, behavior, and response, can teach children what emotions are and how to manage them. Given that overall, children’s EQ is lower today than in previous generations, it’s worth understanding and harnessing the power of story to change this.
How Stories Nurture EQ
- Learning how to understand and identify emotions
Unless you’re highly skilled in navigating your own emotional turmoil and are conscious enough to explain to the children around you what’s happening as it happens, they’re going to model your negative patterns.
Stories provide a safe, age-appropriate, and neutral space for children to learn what emotions exist, how to identify them and understand how they can feel in the body.
- Normalizing emotional states
Real-life observations of rage or grief are overwhelming for a child. Exposure to the full spectrum of human emotion in the context of a story helps normalize emotions, big and small, in the other and in ourselves.
Within a story context, children can identify with relatable characters and make sense of their own emotions by proxy.
- Learning healthy coping mechanisms
Seeing how wise and relatable characters manage their anger, sadness, fear, and joy helps model potential options for a child to adopt in their own life. If they see that a character they love always tells someone and asks for a hug when they’re sad, they might choose to do the same in the future.
The Role You Play
Choose the right books: Look for books that specifically engage emotion and show characters dealing with it in healthy ways that are relatable for children.
Engage children while you’re reading together: “What are you feeling in your body now?”, “Why do you think Fatima is shouting?”.
Discuss and integrate afterward: “How do you know when you’re feeling angry?” or, “What do you think you want to do the next time you feel angry at school like Fatima was?”
It’s never too late to begin learning or improving EQ. It’s also never too early to start. Given that it’s considered a defining skill in career, relationship, and overall life success, it’s worth reading a few well-written stories to the children around us, often.