What is emotional literacy? Let’s break it down. What do you think of when you hear “literacy”? We typically think of literacy as the ability to identify words, read, and comprehend what we read. When we apply that to emotions, emotional literacy is the ability to recognize, understand and appropriately express our emotions.
One goal for parents, teachers, childcare workers, counselors, and others working with children is to help children develop healthy social behaviors. One way to help children acquire healthy social behaviors is to promote their emotional literacy.
Why is emotional literacy important? Simple. Research tells us that children with strong emotional literacy:
- Tolerate frustration better
- Are less lonely
- Get in fewer fights
- Are more focused, less impulsive
- Exhibit less destructive behavior
- Are healthier
- Have greater academic achievement
How do I build emotional literacy? The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning offers some suggestions. Talking about feelings. Asking children to share their feelings. Teaching emotion words (encouraging a large emotional vocabulary). Using books, videos, or TV characters to talk about how characters might feel in various situations. Reflecting on events and discussing feelings. Accepting and supporting your child’s expression of feelings. Remember, no emotion or feeling is wrong. Using books and other activities to talk about emotions.
Here is a video clip of an early childhood center implementing strategies that foster the emotional literacy of young children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0ju4OsYGL4
 Durlak, Weissber, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schellinger, 2011; Jones, Brown, & Aber, 2011; Joseph, Strain, & Ostrosky, n.d.
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