Being a preteen comes with numerous challenges, both physical and mental. These manifest into social challenges as preteens experiment with boundaries and begin to find their place in the world. They are growing physically, and this is accompanied by a lot of hormonal changes. The hormones that begin puberty will also start activating toward the end of the preteen stage. To top it off, peer groups are gaining more importance in their lives, and fitting in outside of the immediate family is starting to take importance at school and in social situations.
Understanding The Preteen Stage of Development
Developmental psychologists study the human lifespan in stages, and the preteen age is an important stage in many psychological models. Erik Erikson, was a famous theorist that identified eight stages that each have a developmental crisis associated with them. He referred to the preteen stage as Competence versus Inferiority, indicating that it is at this stage that kids are developing pride in accomplishments and themselves, which helps them form their identities during the next stage in their teenage years.
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
With so many important traits developing during this time, skills developed through emotional intelligence (or EQ) is one of the most important tools preteens will need to navigate the strange new hills and valleys their emotions will become during this time. Between the formation of new social bonds, the testing of independence from parents, and the encroaching onset of puberty, the associated emotions can seem like nightmarish territory.
Losing a friendship might seem like the end of the world, or being proud of an accomplishment might be viewed as unimportant or even egotistical. More complex emotions are emerging as life gets more complex in the form of peers, romance, and social censure. It has been shown that strong emotional intelligence correlates with success in other areas of life, such as more fulfilling relationships in both social and professional circles, as well as with partners and families. Facing down the challenges of being a preteen using EQ skills can set a firm foundation for success later in life.
EQ Skills You Can Teach Your Preteen
How can you teach your preteen EQ skills? Especially if you’re not familiar with EQ, this may seem difficult, but there are a lot of simple ways to boost EQ, not only for your preteen but yourself as well. Here are a few:
- Mindfulness; using mindfulness meditation or other mindfulness programs, your preteen can be taught self-awareness.
- Non-judgment; often, preteens and teens feel like they are the only ones having these emotions and experiences. By teaching your preteen that other people experience the same feelings, they feel less isolated and more connected with others. This includes teaching them that their emotions are okay to feel. The best way to do this is by example, and showing your preteen that you experience those emotions, too.
- Communication; talking to your preteen isn’t the only thing that is important to build EQ. Neither is listening, although listening without judging or advising helps your preteen feel comfortable talking to you. Communication is reciprocal, which means it is shared. Lines of communication should be open in both directions, so that you are sharing your experiences, where appropriate, and listening to your preteen’s impressions of his or her experiences as well.
- Mind experiments; a mind experiment is the exploration of a hypothetical situation. You can do this with your preteen in many ways, such as role playing or simple discussion. Hypothetical situations to talk about can come from movies, books, television, the news, social situations, or any source that isn’t your life or your pre-teen’s. Talking about hypothetical situations happening to other people builds empathy, but also teaches EQ skills in a manner that is less personal, making the skills easier to apply.
EQ is something everyone should be taught, because it helps strengthen relationships and helps people relate better to others. These are skills everyone needs throughout their lifetimes, and they are also skills that can be taught and maintained. Being a preteen is hard enough, but EQ can equip your preteen with everything needed to make it easier to deal with.