Many children will be returning to school only in August end and this has worried parents, who fear their children will not only lose out academically, but may also fail to develop good social and emotional skills.

Parents are right to recognise the importance of the latter. Daniel Goleman at Rutgers University has established a link between success at school and work, and well-developed emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ allows us to maintain fulfilling relationships and enjoy greater life satisfaction.

EQ is composed of two parts: self-understanding (the ability to recognise our own emotions and deal with them effectively) and a sensitivity to others. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner defines this second aspect of EQ as the “ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them”. Empathy is the ability to understand others; social skills are what enable us to work cooperatively.

Does it follow that lockdown has caused many children to become less socially skilled and less empathetic?

Although the answer depends on several factors – age, personality, personal circumstances, and the extent of social isolation – I’m convinced almost all children will show resilience and regain lost ground once we can feel less self-aware and awkward when interacting with others.


Encourage your kids to work on social/emotional skills

Because EQ is so vital to well-being, it’s important to encourage your children to work on their social and emotional skills. Here’s how:

1. Show interest in their emotions and be a good role model: Ask how they are feeling and respond appropriately. For example, if they’re sad, ask if they would like you to give them a hug or read them a story.

2. Talk about how others are feeling: Read to them, and watch TV together. Ask them to guess characters’ moods and why they might be feeling that way.

3. Manage conflict well: Use arguments with siblings as opportunities to teach self-regulation (everyone has to sit alone and cool down for three minutes), empathy (each child must try to understand how the other is feeling), and compromise (each child must offer two resolutions).

4. Awaken their inner thespian: Encourage them to write and act out plays or sketches, imagining the world through others’ eyes.

5. Demonstrate empathy when explaining current restrictions: When you answer questions about why they can’t socialise just now, explain with regard to those they will help, the frail and vulnerable (perhaps a grandparent) and our health and care workers.

The Daily Telegraph

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