Dr Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, joined a team of 55 international researchers in 2001, to research the question: “How can we help young people realise their full potential?” This led to research in what makes life worth living, how we experience a richer life, how we reach optimal well-being and how we can become the best version of ourselves. Thus followed three years of research, which resulted in the identification of the 24 character strengths used by mankind.

This series of blogs helps you understand the 24 scientifically proven character strengths, which help mankind’s wellbeing and quality of life across the globe.

Strength #4 Social Intelligence

As an Early Years teacher, I have often thought about the importance of teaching various skills. The Early Years curriculum largely dictates what we cover, why, and how. As a teacher, I need to ensure that I follow directives – but I have often been asked the question, “If you could teach one set of skills to every child in the world, what would it be?” It’s a simple choice for me.

What if I could help teach skills that would bring both intelligence and compassion to a child’s decision-making? What if it might reduce negativity and anger? How cool would it be to embed a focus for kindness and empathy and help create relationships that connect, heal, nurture and enhance those who are in them?

For me it’s teaching social intelligence, no question.

Social intelligence involves understanding ourselves, knowing ourselves, our feelings and emotions. As well as understanding what other people may be experiencing, thinking, and feeling.

Helping our child to develop social intelligence will really enhance their future well-being. It will give them tools to boost their chances of success at school, at work, and in life.

The qualities of social intelligence are:
• sensing other people's feelings
• knowing themselves well and getting along with others
• being good at evaluating how others feel and why they say and act as they do
• knowing how to make others feel comfortable and knowing exactly how to act socially

Here are 9 ways to help your child develop social intelligence:

1. Prioritise Your Relationship With Them
Have in your mind the knowledge that your relationship with each other takes priority over pretty much everything else. If they’ve come to you with a confession that has you gasping for breath (it WILL happen, maybe in the teenage years), make sure they know how much their honesty means to you. You can then gently discuss whatever needs to be addressed. Their relationship with you will form the foundation for their future relationships. No pressure!

2. Emphasise The Importance Of Kindness
If you do kind things yourself, saying kind things about people, helping others, going out of your way to make a difference to someone’s day – your children will see this, and understand its value. Kindness is at the heart of social competence, relationships, and connection to others.

3. Embrace Imperfection
We are all human, none of us are perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses, it’s what makes us individual and individuality is to be celebrated. Show your child your imperfections, allow your child to fail without recrimination.

4. Teach Active Listening
If your child knows you hear them, it adds value to their opinions and what they say. Reflect back what you hear when your child talks to you, “So what you’re saying is …” “I feel that you said…” Create plenty of time where you can really focus on them while they’re talking, so they can see how this listening thing is done. Feel its value.

5. Teach Empathy
Notice what your child is feeling, name it, and let them know that you get it. "You seem really angry/ sad/ worried/confused/frustrated... I see that and I understand it." By doing this, they’ll experience first-hand the difference empathy makes, in that they are seen, acknowledged and understood.

6. Teach That Difference Is OK
We’re not all the same, we have different perspectives, different experiences, we have different priorities. Teach that we need to respect other points of view – even if we don’t agree with them!

7. Show Your Own Emotions
We all get cross, upset, worried, sad, scared, jealous, insecure … If it’s appropriate, share your feelings with your child. As long as you don’t overshare!

8. Encourage Friendships From An Early Age
Create opportunities to play with others. When your child shows interest or connection with another child, encourage, and value that. Support them through issues and difficulties in friendships too.

9. Encourage Perspective Taking
We all have difficulties in relationships, whether it’s friendships, love, colleagues … From an early age, you can teach 'perspective taking'. Books are a great way of doing this: “I wonder what James was feeling when he did that?” “How do you think Raj felt?” Empathetic feeling broadens our thinking patterns and can help build empathy and compassion towards others.

Social intelligence is a vital tool for our child’s well-being and happiness. It doesn’t have to be a ‘top’ skill, but any use of this skill is so valuable in so very many life events.

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