Emotional intelligence: Help kids respond to bullying from the inside out

Research shows the importance of developing emotional intelligence for children, youth and adults.

Many people are concerned about issues of bullying and are looking for strategies to help kids respond. Some approaches stress the importance of creating rules and policies. Others stress the power of “bystanders” and encourage young people to step in and interrupt bullying behaviors they see happening around them. Another important, and often overlooked, strategy for addressing bullying is developing emotional intelligence by helping kids respond from the “inside out.”

A growing body of research shows the importance of developing emotional intelligence – for children, youth and adults. Emotional intelligence includes developing self-awareness and an increased ability to notice and navigate our thoughts and emotions – particularly when we’re experiencing stress.

Stress is a part of life for everyone; for some young people, one source of stress is witnessing or being targeted by bullying and other hurtful behaviors. Ideally, we want kids to always be in settings that are free from hurtful, mean-spirited words and actions – but unfortunately that’s not always possible. You can help young people develop resiliency to bullying and other stressful situations by increasing your own emotional intelligence so that you can model and share this information with them.

Here are several ways to increase emotional intelligence in children, youth and adults:

Being the target of (or witnessing of) hurtful, mean-spirited, bullying behaviors can be extremely stressful for young people and adults. Developing emotional intelligence can help us respond to these and other hard situations from a calmer, more centered space. By allowing ourselves to settle, our mind to clear and our state of mind to return to balance, we can tap our deepest and wisest selves as we respond to hard situations. Tapping into our resiliency – the innate ability we all have to gently self-correct and thrive in the face of change and challenges – is an important life skill for children, youth and adults.