As educators and administrators of middle-grade schools, we know all too well the challenges students face during this critical time of growth and change. Mental health and emotional intelligence are paramount in the holistic development of our students, but not enough time is spent focused on ways to support these needs. By destigmatizing self-care, emotional intelligence can then develop so that students can learn habits to help them balance their individual mental health needs.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, manage, and use emotions effectively. We can support our students through these formidable years by fostering a supportive, thriving school environment that addresses mental health and supports everyone with skills for boosting emotional intelligence.
What Activities Support Emotional Intelligence?
Here are five great ways to introduce activities that help students practice verbalizing emotional intelligence and support mental health:
Emotion Journals - Students should be encouraged to maintain a daily, personal journal where they can “brain dump” feelings and thoughts. This journal will help students identify when they feel the best and can leverage those circumstances to support strong relaxation and boost happiness.
Emotion Charades - Many of us do not fully understand or have a vocabulary for emotions. Give students an emotion wheel and invite them to act out emotions on the wheel. They will learn to recognize and interpret the emotions of others and thereby develop empathy over time.
Gratitude Wall - Allow students to write things they’re thankful for, no matter how big or small. You can also have them talk in pairs or small groups and decide on one thing as a collective to post on the wall.
Role-Playing Scenarios - Provide opportunities for role-playing where students improv or prepare a scene that highlights more than one emotion. They’ll learn to work together and understand different perspectives and interpretations of emotions.
Mindfulness & Relaxation Techniques - Deep breathing is hands-down the easiest way to take a peaceful break and to calm your mind and body at any time. No fancy gadgets or tricks, but teach students the proper technique for breathing.
Schoolwide Initiatives for Promoting Emotional Intelligence
While it may be more of an undertaking than a 1-minute breathing break, establishing safe spaces and programs to educate students about mental health and emotional intelligence creates a culture of acceptance and support. Consider…
Peer Mentoring Programs, where older students are paired with younger ones to teach them things like emotion identification and deep breathing techniques.
Wellness Weeks, where activities are focused on whole-body wellness to support mental health, like yoga classes, guest speakers on emotional well-being, and workshops about coping strategies for stress.
Overall, highlighting the importance of emotions in your school and working to support a positive mental and emotional environment for everyone will do wonders for everyone in your school community. When you value mental health and emotional well-being, you’re creating a culture of caring, hope, and positivity for the future.