Emotional Intelligence (EI) continues to be a pillar of the PBS experience for our students. Learnings about social and emotional strategies are embedded throughout our daily routines and academic programs through an intentional practice of our core values. This year we have aligned a strong Emotional Intelligence Committee made up of faculty members across the school - those who are closest to our children, experiencing and participating in their developing emotions firsthand.
The committee is Leslie Richardson, Dana Doolin, Phoebe Mauricio, Zac Oldenburg, Michael Barbarino, and Casey Powell.
From time to time we will share posts from this committee, to provide clarity around the EI teaching we are implementing within our school day, giving you insight into what you might experience your children putting into practice. Currently, our EI education focuses on emotions and how students can identify and support their feelings; both in themselves and with their peers. The emotions we’re focusing on are Fear, Sadness, Joy/Happy, Anger, and Hurt.
Today we’ll put the spotlight on Sadness.
While this may not seem like the cheeriest of subjects, it is a real emotion that affects all of us. Some might deal with sadness more than others, but from the ELC to 5th Grade, all students will have to grapple with moments of sadness in one way or another. Sometimes that moment can be fleeting. Our younger students can feel emotions strongly and passionately, but in the blink of an eye, that sadness has washed away like a passing rain cloud.
Other times sadness can creep out from underneath the surface. As our students get older, social relationships become trickier, school work becomes more challenging, and emotions are dwelled upon as students develop more agency over their feelings. Sadness doesn’t even look like sadness all the time. Sadness can be the driving force for other emotions to be put to the forefront, throwing children out of balance and making them seem “off”.
So how can we help children deal with sadness?
Empathy is always the first thing we need to remember, letting the children know we hear them and that we want them to feel better. You can’t just tell a child to feel better or be happy, that’s not solving the problem. We need to be prepared to be direct and address what they are feeling, respecting them (and their feelings) through empathy.
A great start to letting children know you are empathetic is to let them know that it is OK to feel sad. If we try to hide sadness behind a wall (neither to be seen or heard about), that doesn’t mean it isn’t still there; growing and evolving if we don’t address it. That’s why acknowledging what someone is feeling, and letting them know it is OK, is such a powerful first step in solving sadness (or any emotional feeling). If you can build a safe environment around sadness where everyone knows it is OK to feel that way, children will be less likely to get stuck in that emotion, and more likely to share where they are at in their emotions with you.
Another great way to support a sad child is to remember that their sadness is not usually a reflection of their whole experience. Sadness can be easy to get stuck in and reminding/encouraging children to remember the other moments of their day might help them get out of that sadness hole. On top of this, it might raise them up enough to get them to a place where they can more easily discuss the sadness inside them. Speaking about the positivity around them will, hopefully, remind them that there was more to their day than the sadness and that they can beat these feelings; perhaps on their own or with your help.
Lastly, we need to be ready to acknowledge that we might not be able to solve the problem in the moment. Children can be complex, we aren’t an expert at everything, and while we might not be able to solve a child’s emotional well being every time, it goes a long way to be able to understand and convey that there isn’t always a right answer. Being able to admit that to yourself, and the child, will allow you to be on team to solve said problem.
These are just a few suggestions around how to work through sadness with your child. While you will probably never be an expert with the exact answer, you don’t want to just apply a quick fix to the problem. You can be a partner with your child as they work on their emotional growth, and sometimes that’s really all they need.