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.