Why is it important to learn to manage emotion at school
Educating does not only consist in teaching knowledge and instilling good learning habits, but also in guiding, encouraging and leading students in the entire process involved in growing up and living through the different stages and moments they will face in their lives.
A teacher’s task involves much more than just covering the various subjects contained in the educational programme: “A teacher affects eternity: He can never tell where his influence stops”, stated the American historian, novelist and essayist, Henry Brooks Adams. A teacher’s influence exercises a strong influence on educational success, but also on student’s personal development.
Accompanying students in learning to manage emotions is also a subject, and can be at times the most complex. Even adults find it difficult on certain occasions to identify and channel emotions and feelings they have. It is therefore understandable that children and adolescents find handling these emotions an even greater challenge.
“Nature has endowed all mammals with five primary emotions: fear, joy, sorrow, anger and disgust. Surprise is also considered the sixth emotion”. Explains Noa Sánchez-Cabezudo, psychotherapist for adults, couples and families at Psycologists Pozuelo. According to this expert, from an emotional regulation point of view, feelings should be considered pleasant or unpleasant, rather than positive or negative.
Pleasant and Unpleasant Emotions
Pleasant emotions such as joy usually appear when our needs are met, and we are in tune with our surroundings. These emotions are easy to cope with, experiment and manage and subsequently, are easily shared. When we are happy, we tend to share the feeling with others, so they can join in and feel this happiness. This is more difficult with unpleasant emotions. However, unpleasant emotions such as anger, sadness or fear are difficult to manage and, in many cases, even to identify, and this is why emotional education from an early age is important.
How to Teach Emotional education
Referent adults endeavouring to develop emotional education in children will need to develop emotional skills, so the children are able to use them as examples and adapt them to their personal development. Both parents and teachers need to be able to convey security, trust and respect to children, so they feel in a safe environment that enables them to express themselves freely.
“Identify them first, so that you can handle them after, is the foundation of emotional learning in children. We can teach children to label emotions from about the age of three. And one of the best way to communicate the key to handling emotions is by following someone’s example” explains Begoña Ibarrola, psychologist and expert in emotional education.
For these reasons, it is essential not to prohibit or repress children’s emotions: identifying, naming and expressing how they feel is part of a child’s development. We need to understand that all emotions, even the unpleasant ones, are important and we learn from them. This is the message we must convey to our children.
Both the school and the family has the important task of working towards equipping children with the necessary emotional tools that will enable them to handle their feelings and, most importantly, communicate how they feel. The following is necessary to achieve this:
- Communication: It is fundamental to avoid repressing unpleasant emotions in order to increase awareness that the former need to be shared. At both school and home we must encourage communication and talk about how we feel (adults must give a good example and express their emotions). Once we recognise the emotion we feel, it needs to be reflected on and discussed, in order to see where it comes from, and how it makes us feel, and how we can feel better, etc.
- Vulnerability/Strength: When we are sad or afraid we tend to hide these emotions, as showing them make us feel vulnerable, and to protect ourselves from these feelings we “clothe” ourselves with strength, to conceal these emotions. However, being capable of expressing our sadness and vulnerability is in itself courageous. We need to teach children that hiding our emotions is not being strong, and that it is brave to share these feelings.
- Autoregulation: Adults must also teach children that expressing their emotions disproportionally will just create more conflict than satisfaction. We must work on autoregulation. We cannot avoid their feelings of anger, fear, sadness and frustration, but we can we can help children by conveying security and serenity in these occasions, when they need it. This will help them to think before acting out of anger or frustration, and thus be capable of controlling themselves.
- Empathy: Children learn how to be empathic and recognise other people’s feelings when they have learnt to express their emotions and have built a relationship of trust and open communication in their life.
“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings” said the Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. Teachers can, and must help children to handle their emotions, as it is no doubt one of the most valuable assets in life.