How Can You Elevate Your Teen’s Emotional Literacy?

Many of us do not realize that we have been learning emotionally since birth. If that were not true, we would still have the emotional maturity of a baby and would cry openly for that last piece of cake. Most emotional learning is informal and occurs by mimicking the people around us. As children, we grow up watching our parents and teachers and adopting their beliefs about emotions and how to deal with them. When we became teens, our source of emotional learning gradually shifted from parents to friends or other influencers. There is nothing wrong with this organic learning, but what if a person’s parents, teachers, friends, or role models are emotionally illiterate? What will they learn?

Moreover, interpretations of emotions vary across cultures, and some emotions your teen absorbs may not serve them well. For instance, the emotion of ambition is perceived as negative in certain cultures. A lack of ambition may limit the possibility for them to become an entrepreneur despite having talent and opportunities. What if your teen happens to be raised in such an environment?

You don’t have to leave your teen’s emotional learning to chance. Instead, you could create a learning path for your teen and help build their Emotional Literacy. This term, Emotional Literacy, was first used in 1997 by Claude Steiner, who defined it as “the ability to understand your own emotions, understand and empathize with others’ emotions, and express emotions productively.”

Emotional Literacy gives us as many benefits as Linguistic Literacy. Traditional Literacy focuses on language; Emotional Literacy does the same with emotions. Literacy allows your teen to understand more conceptually and think differently. Your teen's Emotional Literacy allows them to understand what they are feeling and gives them a wider array of possible responses. Linguistic Literacy allows your teen to understand how others think; Emotional Literacy allows them to understand how others feel.

Traditional educational systems focus on reason, thinking, and the development of Intellectual Quotient (IQ). In the process, we have neglected Emotional Intelligence (EQ). As a result, it is common to see many technically skilled people who lack relational skills. For example, consider a doctor who lacks empathy towards their patients or an engineer who designs products that are not user-friendly. As parents, you can improve your Emotional Literacy and transfer the skills to your teenagers. Teenage years are when many new habits are formed, and many of them remain with the person forever. Unlearning such habits could be challenging later in life, and for that reason, it is critical to catch them young and develop a solid foundation for emotional learning.

Free eBook for Parents: How Can You Coach Your Teen to Become More Emotionally Intelligent? 

Download our free eBook for parents to learn a different interpretation of emotions that illustrates how they are a valuable source of information for you and your teen and support you both to make wise choices.

About the author 

Dan Newby

Dan is a best-selling author of 5 books on emotions, a social-emotional learning consultant to U.S. school systems, a certified professional coach with 9000 hours of coaching experience, an international speaker, and a thought-leader in the domain of emotions and emotional literacy. Dan was a Senior Course Leader for Newfield Network for eight years. In those years he led coach training programs in the U.S., Amsterdam, and at the University of Calgary. He has worked with several school systems in the U.S., global commercial enterprises, and NGOs. Dan’s passion for elevating emotional literacy fuels his writing, teaching, and development of games to help people learn the value of emotions and the many ways they enrich our lives. His quest for emotional skills development combined with his work as an ontological coach and CEO of one of the premium coaching schools globally helped him move deeper into this territory of learning and become the teacher he is today. Dan was born in the U.S. and has lived in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

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