Teaching Teens Emotional Intelligence

Helping teenagers succeed at school is about a lot more than just learning the 3 R’s and having access to the internet. As discussed in the last post a teen’s capacity to learn can be severely impacted by their emotional state. When teens feel anxious, angry, or upset they will absorb far less than when they are happy, safe, and comfortable with their surroundings.

Parents can contribute to their teenager’s emotional well being by attending to the ‘3 E’s’ of emotional nurture- Eliminate, Educate and Encourage. The previous post covered how to improve teenage learning by eliminating common causes of stress or anxiety for teens.  It also covered the basic components of Emotional Intelligence that teens can learn.

This post will detail how parents can educate and encourage their teens to develop their emotional intelligence and consequently improve their capacity for learning.

Table of Contents


Teenagers can learn to develop and improve their emotional intelligence. As parents there is lot you can do to help your teen in this regard.

 Self Awareness

Encourage teens to talk about their feelings. The act of describing emotions helps teens focus on how they are feeling and develop an improved awareness of what is happening for them emotionally.  Build a language between you and your teen, which involves describing your feelings out loud; asking how your teenagers feel; teaching them they can have two feelings at the same time.

Promote the use of “I statements” within the family.  Instead of accusing or labeling other people, model and promote language that take ownership of personal feelings.  Try using expressions like “I get really frustrated when she..” .  instead of “She is always mean to me.”

Be aware that you can teach emotional competency through personal stories, current events, discussions of movies or web sites. Recognize and discuss the types of emotional behaviors from these media.

Mood management

Teach your teens how to shake off a bad mood.  Promoting and modelling basic anger management and conflict resolution skills will help prevent teens from becoming victims of their negative feelings.

Teach your teens that anger is a normal part of life; it is okay to be angry; but it is important not to make things worse when expressing or dealing with anger. Create norms in your house such as having ‘cool off’ or ‘timeouts’ is okay if people feel their anger getting on top of them and they are worried about saying or doing something unhelpful.

Look for teachable moments that occur throughout the day, moments that enable you to discuss moods, conflict resolution or managing feelings with your teenager.


Self-motivation is the internal drive to pursue and achieve goals.  Teens will be motivated from within when they believe they are able to succeed and achieve goals that are attainable.

Parents can nurture their teen’s inner drive by focusing on their teenager’s strengths and interests and actively encouraging them when they show enthusiasm for a particular subject or pursuit.

Teaching teens to set attainable goals is also important. Often teenagers need help in taking big challenges and breaking them up into smaller achievable tasks.  Get your teen to focus on the most immediate aspect of the challenge or task and work their way through a problem one step at a time.

Promote optimism with your teenager. Encourage them to think of opportunities and creative ways to solve problems. This is especially important when they are confronted with setbacks or disappointments. Helping teens focus on positive ways forward instead of the negatives of the past can make a big difference in how they tackle the challenges of life.


Nurturing empathy in your teenagers provides an important foundation for forming and maintaining strong inter personal relationships.

The most obvious way parents can teach empathy is to demonstrate it the way they relate with their teenagers. As a parent try putting yourself  in your teenager’s shoes before responding to whatever it is they have said or done.  The capacity to see a situation from your teen’s perspective not only models empathy; it also is the secret to responding effectively to many aspects of teenage behaviour.

Make the most of opportunities to get your teen to think about how someone else might be thinking or feeling when situations arise at home or at school.

Management of relationships

Positive social relationships are an integral part of succeeding in all walks of life.  The most fundamental way teens learn about managing relationships is in the context of the family. Even as your kids become teenagers and get older try to create and maintain regular family time when everyone is together to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Having good impulse control has been shown to be a key ingredient in a teenager’s ability to manage personal relationships. Helping your teen to learn the difference between feelings and actions is the key. When teens learn that they are not victims of their feelings, but can choose how to act or express their emotions, they are able to nurture their personal relationships more successfully.


Affirming and acknowledging your teenager’s emotional development is an often-overlooked aspect of parent education for teens.

When teenagers achieve or attain a goal their self-esteem is strengthened. By acknowledging and affirming achievement, parents further bolster the self-concept of their kids.

When it comes to learning parents help their teens not only by acknowledging academic grades but also their emotional resilience, problem solving, and personal growth in dealing with difficult emotions.

Being attentive to the social and emotional development of your teens will give you the opportunity to affirm and applaud the positive steps they take in developing their emotional intelligence.

Ways to encourage your teen’s emotional development include:

  • Congratulate them when they complete a challenging assignment
  • Applaud them when they demonstrate empathy for others
  •  Affirm them when they choose not to lash out when angry
  • Praise them when they come up with alternative or creative ways to solve problems
  •  Provide as much time and energy as you can spare to support their passions and interests
  •  Invite them to participate and contribute to family decisions and discussions
  •  Spend one on one time with your teen doing things you know they like to do.

Above all remember learning is not all about a young persons IQ and having a good school.  They need to be in a good emotional space and have the abilities to manage their feelings. Help your teen to by focusing on the ‘3 E’s’ as well as the ‘3 R’s’.

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