Learning emotional intelligence the Canadian way - with family, community and turkey

Maple Bear

Every October, Canadian families gather round the dinner table to celebrate all they are blessed with in life. Along with sharing delicious food and enjoying the crisp weather, the occasion represents an opportunity to connect with those that play an important role in one’s life.

As a day designated for mindfulness, Thanksgiving is arguably the original lesson in emotional intelligence - a holiday that revolves around connecting with oneself and with those around you.

Emotional intelligence is thus part of the Canadian cultural DNA , and strongly embedded into the education system across the country. At schools, students are often engaged in noting down and reflecting on the many things, big and small, that mean the world to them, requiring them to undertake introspection and recognize what strengthens their individuality.

But Thanksgiving is also a social and community event, and provides a chance for even the youngest members of a community to think beyond the limitations of their own physical self. Donation drives for less fortunate community members are as ubiquitous as intimate, big turkey dinners with family.

Building emotional intelligence is a crucial function of an early years education program. In the early years, cognitive functions are rapidly developing and as self awareness begins to take shape, so do social and relational cues become internalized. Developing empathy as an essential principle to guide interpersonal interactions should be the key aim of socialization activities that are incorporated in early years curricula.

The careers of the future demand less knowledge and « process memory » and call for more social and intuitive resilience and responsiveness. With rapid advances in technological innovation, a greater number of careers will become automated and obsolete. But the need for intuition, to connect with others, respond and adapt to cultural and situational differences, is a distinctly human capacity that will be vital for further innovation and for new solutions to social problems to continue being generated. In other words, while the act of creation can be delegated to machines, socially responsive innovation will forever remain the domain of human beings, driven by the idea generation process uniquely attributable to the give and take of human relationships. Nurturing emotional intelligence in the classroom is thus fundamental in order for today's youth to be equipped to adapt and survive in the future economy.

Thanksgiving may not be the only festivity in which thankfulness for greater things is the central theme, but it certainly holds a distinct place within Canadian culture, reinforcing the nation's humble value of expressing gratitude for all things big and small and symbolically reminding us of the reasons behind generation after generation of Canadians that are thought leaders with the desire and ability to do good, at home and abroad.