Students at O Castro British International School receive a comprehensive and personalised education where academic excellence is not the only important aspect. Education in values and emotional education form part of our curriculum.
For this reason, and always in the spirit of learning together, we at O Castro have contacted Ana Horcajo, a psychologist and expert in child psychology and systemic family therapy, to talk to her about this subject. We had a good chat with her and Ana, who is also a university lecturer, provided us with eight keys to educate children in the correct management of emotions.
1. Teach them to think positively: often, throughout the day, we focus only on the bad things that have happened to us and forget the good things. Children need to be taught to think about the good things that happen every day. Why? Well, so that in this way they can also create affective bonds that are good, that are appropriate and that they learn to solve problems and conflicts in a positive and more peaceful way.
2. Pay special attention to words. What does this mean? We have to keep in mind that the human being is an integrated whole. It has the emotional part, the cognitive part and the behavioural part. All three are interrelated; all three depend on each other and condition each other. What happens? Well, the way we tell ourselves about life, the way we tell ourselves about our experiences, the way we feel, and that determines our behaviour. And that determines our behaviour. What do I mean? Sometimes we use expressions like: "I have to do this" when it would be more correct to say: "I want to do this". Or expressions like: "I can't" "This is impossible" "I'll never be able to do it" "It's super difficult" ... Instead of saying to ourselves "Well, this is complicated, but I'm going to sit down and see how I can do it; I'm going to ask for help; I'm going to look for alternatives...", for example. Or expressions such as: "I am like this and this will never change" "This is terrible" "I am very bad" ... these are very radical and very negative expressions. They should be replaced by reasoned expressions, with examples and more positive ones.
3. Communication: it is essential to create a climate of trust; a climate of security where the child can talk; where dialogue is allowed. An environment in which the child sees that his or her opinions are respected, where ideas are not imposed and where there is no judgement. The family is the place where the child should feel that he/she can speak freely and that he/she will be listened to. And of course it must be an active listening environment.
4. Allow the expression of emotions: children's emotions and feelings cannot be repressed. We should not make children see that there are good emotions and bad emotions because all emotions are good and all emotions are necessary. We should not tell a child "don't cry" or "it's OK" by minimising what he or she is feeling at that moment. Let them express their fear, pain or anger, just as we let them sing or laugh out loud when they are happy.
5. Empathy: it is important that children learn to recognise their emotions and also learn to recognise the emotions of others. How can we achieve this? Well, for example, by asking them. By creating situations in which we ask them: How do you think this person feels? How do you think dad feels? Or how do you think your friend feels? Or if we are watching a film or reading a story, we can ask: How do you think this character feels? What could have happened to him/her? Why does he/she feel this way?
It is also important that we, their adults of reference, express ourselves and put ourselves in their shoes. We can tell them: "I feel sad about this" or "I am very happy about this" so that they can put themselves in our place.
6. Teach them to recognise emotions: we start with the basic emotions and continue with the secondary ones. How is this done? Well, the same: with questions, generating situations in which we can ask questions and they can talk; helping them to name what they feel...
7. Once they are able to name the emotions, they should learn the causes and consequences of each one of them. Little by little they should be able to express why they are feeling what they are feeling. For example: "I am angry because my brother took my toy away from me". Or: "I'm sad because we couldn't go to the park today". At first we have to help them to find the justification for what they are feeling, but later they should try to do it on their own.
8. Allow them to live in the present. We are always so preoccupied with the past or the future. We must try to ensure that children do not live anchored in the past; in this sense, we must avoid phrases such as "Do you remember what happened to you? But neither should we burden them with the future with predictions of what will happen if they don't do this or that. We must be able to make them see the consequences, but we must let them live in the present; children must take advantage of the emotional benefits of living in the present. We have to get them not to worry too much about what has already happened and what will happen next. After all, children's brains are designed to think in the present. Anticipation anxiety is something from the adult world that we should not pass on to them.
And so, with these simple guidelines we conclude this little guide to emotional education that we hope you have found as useful and interesting as we have.