Mitchell, S. 2020, Clover Clips Newsletter, Volume 28, Issue 4, April 2020, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, 4-H Newsletter

Help 4-H Members Thrive Through Positive Emotionality

4-H is based on a positive youth development approach that recognizes all youth have interests, abilities and strengths that can be enhanced by participation in a high-quality 4-H program. Research consistently shows that participation in quality 4-H programs increases thriving in youth. Thriving youth achieve important developmental outcomes such as academic motivation and achievement. Thriving youth are positive and optimistic and are able to manage emotions in ways that lead to health and well-being.

A major factor in thriving youth is the embrace of positive emotionality. Positive emotionality is learn-ing to manage emotions effectively and something all youth need to accomplish in order to thrive. Youth can be a volatile time in an individual’s life. Emotions that arise from events that are disappointing, frustrating, or unfair can be quite strong. Youth engaged in 4-H programming need to learn positive ways to express their emotions rather than hiding their feelings or expressing them in negative ways.

Research shows that helping young people develop reappraisal skills can give our youth the tools they need to manage strong emotions effectively. These re-appraisal skills will help youth explore their powerful emotions rather than suppress them. Youth will learn to redirect their negative emotions into positive responses. Emotional management is part of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a key social skill needed throughout life. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, explains:

“The emotional brain responds more quickly than the thinking brain. If you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

People who have a high level of emotional intelligence are able to relate positively with others through appropriate interactions. They gain the trust of others while making their peers feel valued. Children with well-developed emotional intelligence skills tend to have greater success in school and healthier relationships.

Youth who participate in 4-H have the opportunity to increase their emotional intelligence, as the 4-H youth development program is designed to build a child’s emotional intelligence by developing life skills such as responsibility, listening, teamwork and modeling.

For parents, volunteer leaders and staff, below are some suggestions to help youth develop positive emotionality:

  • Assure youth that their feelings matter. Support their feelings as valid.
  • Teach youth that while all feelings are valid, everyone needs to learn to manage their emotions effectively.
  • Encourage youth to express their feelings when they try to suppress them.
  • Help youth to develop reappraisal skills by pointing out other sides to the situation and encourage perspective taking.
  • Have clear expectations for expressing strong emotions appropriately in the 4-H setting.
  • Notice youth who struggle with emotional management and guide them toward a more positive expression.

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