Raising emotionally intelligent young people

Emotional intelligence is key to forming strong relationships and interpersonal skills, writes Lead Psychologist Jon Marginis, and helping young people to develop it starts in the household.

When teaching and discussing wellbeing in schools, resilience is a word that we often hear. As many parents and teachers will agree – building resilience is an important life skill for young people that will support them through their school life to the workforce and beyond.

How can we help young people to build resilience?

Firstly, there are many ways that resilience can be defined. Hearing from our students, many think of resilience as the ability to carry on and move past whatever has happened.

However, to build resilience, we must look deeper. It's imperative that we first understand and develop emotional intelligence.

John D Mayer and Peter Salovey, who initially explored the concept of emotional intelligence, define it as the ability to identify and manage one's own emotions, as well as the feelings of others.

Emotional intelligence generally encompasses:

  • Emotional awareness and the ability to identify one's own emotions
  • The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving
  • The ability to manage emotions – including regulating one's own emotions and helping others to do the same

How do we help our boys and young men to build emotional intelligence?

Ideally, it is by modelling it. Parents, carers and role models should display positive behaviour and help the young person to unpack scenarios.

It's essential to let young people experience the emotion and not try to fix what caused the distress.

For example, a child becomes upset or angry when their favourite toy or phone breaks. Often, parents will initially respond by trying to fix it or going to the store to buy a new one.

When this happens, the parent resolves the cause of distress but doesn't address the child's emotions.

While the child's mood will likely improve, it doesn't prompt them to practice emotional intelligence.

These are some simple steps parents and guardians can use to turn this incident into an opportunity to develop emotional intelligence:

  1. As the adult, take a moment to recognise what has occurred and assess your response to the situation.
  2. Calmly recognise and name the young person's emotion, ie. "I can see you are upset or angry."
  3. Invite the young person to discuss their emotion, ie. "Can you talk to me about what has happened?"
  4. If the young person does not discuss their emotions, ask, "Can you tell me how you feel right now?".
  5. Acknowledge how the young person feels, ie. "I appreciate that you would be upset or angry that your toy or phone is broken. That would be very irritating".
  6. Discuss the next steps with the young person, ie. "Okay, let's take a moment to process how we are feeling".
  7. Come up with a plan together, ie. "Should we go to the shops to replace it, or can we try to work this out together?"

It's more than okay for you to replace or fix their broken item, but it's essential to work with the young person to discuss and process their emotions beforehand.

Depending on the issue and its severity, processing the emotion or naming it can take some time. Sometimes your family might need to take a few days to discuss it.

If needed, you can reach out to medical professionals or pastoral care staff. This could be the Head/Deputy Head of School, Director of Wellbeing, House Head, homeroom teacher, classroom teacher, school leadership team, school psychologist or a GP.

As a parent, guardian or role model in a young person's life, it's essential to support them in naming and processing incidents before finding a solution.

When we encourage discussion, we help young people develop emotional intelligence and, ultimately, support them in regulating their emotions, building interpersonal skills, and developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

To learn more about emotional intelligence in parenting, visit:

Jon Marginis
Lead Psychologist
Counselling Psychology Registrar

Find out more about our Pastoral Care and Wellbeing programmes