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5 Ways That Stories Can Build Emotional Intelligence In Children
by: Priyanka Raha ~2/16/2023


In our professional, personal and academic lives, we have heard the term emotional intelligence. It has definitely gained a lot of importance in the last few years. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. It involves being able to express emotions in a healthy and constructive manner.

Emotional Intelligence is a fairly new term, coined in the 90s by groundbreaking research from psychologists Peter Salovey and John Meyer. The term gained widespread popularity in the book “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. It has since then been applied in a variety of domains, including leadership, team building, education, and mental health.

Emotional Intelligence is important because it is a key predictor of success in both personal, and professional life. Schools today have adopted Social Emotional Learning, otherwise known as SEL, as an important component of their curriculum. Simply put, SEL is a process that helps children improve their emotional intelligence.

As a mom and a writing coach to students, emotional intelligence is important to me because research done by the American Psychological Association shows that children with higher emotional intelligence are likely to have improved academic performance, better mental health and stronger relationships.

Although emotional intelligence is now taught through the academic curriculum, and is part of many vocational training, one of the simplest ways to teach it is through stories. As parents, teachers and mentors we often read to our children. So if we are intentional about what stories we choose, and how we talk about them with children, stories are undeniably the simplest way to help children build emotional intelligence from a very early age.

Here’s why.

1. Cultivate Empathy

Stories introduce children to characters from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Children are exposed to situations that may be different from their own experiences. This helps them develop empathy and understanding for others by providing opportunities to see the world through someone else’s perspective.

Through different characters, stories present different viewpoints which help readers to be open-minded about different value systems. Children learn to appreciate and respect differences, rather than fear or reject them.

2. Teach Emotional Literacy

When we read stories and discuss them with children, it helps them better understand, and express their emotions. By exposing children to a multitude of diverse emotions, and emotional experiences they can identify their own feelings, and those of others. This gives them skills to be better leaders and team players.

A good gripping story allows readers to feel what the characters feel. Through powerful metaphors and symbolism, children develop a richer vocabulary to identify and describe the different feelings.

3. Encourage Critical Thinking

Our world, as we know, is constantly changing. This means that children as they grow up must ‘learn to learn’, and ‘learn to adapt’. As children navigate their adult lives, above everything else, they must be critical thinkers. Stories provide complex situations and opportunities that encourage children to develop deep thinking, and analytical skills.

Stories can sometimes present open-ended questions, ethical dilemmas, or endings that require readers to reflect on their own experiences, and how they would react under similar circumstances. Stories expose children to different ways of thinking which teaches them to think outside the box, weigh different options, and make thoughtful decisions.

4. Promote Problem-Solving

Stories often have characters who face challenges that they have to solve through creative problem-solving. This teaches children to develop these skills, such as examining the problem, brainstorming different solutions, and predicting the outcome of these solutions.

When readers read different stories, they are essentially following the characters’ journey which can be very different from one story to another. Children learn valuable problem-solving skills that can be applied to their own lives. Along the storyline, different characters might be working together to solve obstacles. This teaches children about team building, and relying on shared experiences to tackle problems.

5. Foster Positive Relationships

Most stories have multiple characters. By seeing these characters interact in a respectful and positive manner, children learn to develop meaningful relationships with others in their own lives. Stories present with positive role models who embody qualities like kindness, empathy, and respect. This inspires children to model their behavior after them, thus nurturing positive relationships with others.

Many stories are built on themes of friendship, love, and connection which provide young readers with a deeper appreciation of community and leaning into each other. Stories that depict diverse characters and cultures can directly inspire young readers to cultivate an understanding of different backgrounds thereby helping them learn relationship building skills.
This and many more are the reasons why I discuss stories, and lean into the conversations while brainstorming during our writing classes. Want to learn more about our story writing classes? Check us out here.

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