Teaching Kids Skills to Manage Their Emotions

When I was in graduate school, I was required to read a book titled Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goldman. The book examined the then nascent research by two psychologists, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, who were developing their theory of emotional intelligence (EI). Drawing upon this line of research, the basic premise of Daniel Goldman’s book is that emotional intelligence, and not IQ is critical to achieving success in life. Furthermore, he argued that emotional intelligence could be taught. The book was a bestseller as the concept of emotional intelligence resonated with many people. The educational community recognized emotional intelligence as an important skill to develop within students, and programs teaching emotional intelligence soon began to appear in schools. A recent article in the New York Times Magazine examines this growing trend of schools incorporating social-emotional learning into their curriculum. It’s a balanced examination of such programs, and well worth reading.

In a similar vein, a pilot study out of Ohio State University’s College of Nursing looked at the benefits of incorporating a mental health component to a high school health education curriculum. Called COPE (Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment), the program focused on teaching students basic cognitive-behavioral skills. Results from the study were promising, with students showing improved scores on both physical and emotional measures. It’s an interesting study, and hopefully one that will be replicated in a larger randomized study to see if the results hold up.