In a world as diverse as ours, fostering empathy from an early age is not just a virtue but a necessity. The age-old adage of 'walking in someone else's shoes' takes on new meaning in the realm of child psychology. And Maria Santos Becerril Perez, an academic from the Faculty of Psychology at UNAM, stands as a beacon of wisdom on the subject. In a recent presentation at the “UNAMirada desde la Psicología” conference, she shared insights into how promoting emotional autonomy in children paves the way for a more inclusive society.
In Becerril Perez's eyes, emotional competencies are the key to building emotional autonomy. These competencies are a unique set of skills and attitudes that allow an individual to understand, decipher, manage, and co-regulate their emotions with others. In essence, it's the emotional Swiss Army knife that equips us for life's rollercoaster.
Throughout the journey from childhood to adolescence, emotional autonomy is constructed in four essential stages: emotional awareness, regulation, autonomy, and the acquisition of competencies for life and well-being. Though it's no walk in the park, this process isn't necessarily linear.
In Mexico, as Becerril Perez points out, there's work to be done in nurturing emotional autonomy. Young adults are often ill-prepared to deal with their emotions and the social responsibilities that come with them. Instead, they embark on adulthood with a suitcase of unresolved issues and unconsolidated life competencies.
The foundation for emotional autonomy is laid during a child's early years. In the preschool stage, the focus must be on emotional awareness. It's a time when children are discovering their feelings and emotions, although they might not yet know the precise names for them. The role of adults here is paramount. Identifying what the child is feeling and giving it a name is a crucial part of the process.
As children grow, they move into the period of emotional awareness. This stage is all about understanding the emotional atmosphere around them, learning to name feelings, and empathizing with the emotions of others. It's a delicate dance that calls for authenticity. Adults need to ensure their words match their actions, creating a fertile ground for assertive communication.
Teaching Positivity Over Suppressing Negativity
One significant takeaway from Becerril Perez's insights is the importance of fostering positivity over suppressing negativity. Instead of teaching children not to be angry, the focus should be on understanding why they might be unhappy or ungrateful. This constructive approach helps them find solutions rather than bottling up their emotions.
In the case of adolescents, it's important for adults to be ready to face the music. Adolescents will challenge what they've been taught, and adults should be prepared to accept their imperfections. Positive reinforcement and celebrating successes, not dwelling on failures, can go a long way in nurturing their emotional autonomy.
A crucial step in guiding children toward emotional autonomy is our own emotional growth. As adults, we must invest in understanding our emotions and continually work on our life projects. It's a journey of mutual learning and shared experiences, not a daunting uphill climb.
In Maria Santos Becerril Perez's eyes, the path to emotional autonomy is paved with empathy, authenticity, and a dash of positivity. It's not just about shaping the children of today but building a more inclusive and emotionally resilient society for the future. As we embark on this journey, it's not just the kids who will be learning; it's all of us.