Developing emotional intelligence in Black children

 

OpenEyessquareIt has been difficult and frustrating to watch the news lately. Black children continue to be on display for all sorts of horrific things. Oftentimes I am asked, “What can we do about the current crisis that Black people are in?”

I often give three areas to focus on: economics development, healthy relationships, and family development. Black people’s issues usually come back to these three areas. These are areas that we must develop a serious focus on to improve our current collective position.

As a therapist, many of my clients are usually struggling in one of these areas, if not all. These are areas that cause significant amounts of stress and trauma. The cycles of dysfunction and pain can be reduced and stopped by adopting a code of conduct to address these areas in a serious manner.

However, we cannot make collective improvements without making constructive strides individually first. One concept that many African American people are not familiar with is emotional intelligence. This is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of the people around you. This is how people develop into “high achievers” or, achieve what famous psychologist Abraham Maslow would call self-actualization.

Once trauma is introduced into someone’s life (especially during childhood) it distorts the emotional intelligence of that person. This is why it is essential to address the intergenerational trauma we experience in our community.

The following are four building blocks of emotional intelligence: 1) Self-Awareness, 2) Self-Management, 3) Social Awareness, and 4) Relationship Skills.

 

Self-Awareness

Our children must be able to recognize and understand their moods, emotions and drives. You would be surprised how often young people answer, “I don’t know” to simple questions about themselves. If you don’t know yourself, you are lost in life.

 

Self-Management

Once one can understand oneself, one must have the ability to control and/or redirect impulses and moods. This is essential in not allowing manipulation and/or harm to be done to you. Proactive behaviors prepare you better than reactive behaviors.

 

Social Awareness

The key to this area is attention. Our children must know how other people are reacting and/or anticipating how they are likely to react to what you do and say. Once one has the ability to sense how others react, you can be more effective in choosing how to deliver a message.

 

Relationship Skills

As the technology brings the world closer, it is vital for our children to be proficient in managing relationships and building networks. Many other ethnic groups are preparing their children to be global citizens. We must follow suit and do the same.

 

If we as parents, family members, teachers, mentors and community members began to implement these four functions of emotional intelligence, our children will be better equipped to succeed and compete in this ever-growing global society. If you are sick and tired of seeing our children being brutalized and victimized, then we must begin to do something different and something deeper than what we are doing now.

Emotional intelligence is not solely the answer to our problems. However, it is a piece to the puzzle of empowerment.

 

Brandon Jones M.A. is a mental health practitioner. He welcomes reader responses to openeyesopenmind@ymail.com or follow him on twitter @UniversalJones.