One in ten children aged 5 to 16 years old suffer from mental health issues, and 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14, with 75% being established by age 24. This is becoming an increasingly concerning statistic, and between April 2015 and March 2016 (latest figures) 64,765 children were given antidepressant medication, including 315 children aged 6 or under. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Emotional Intelligence – an indicator of success

One of my passions is helping children develop their emotional and social intelligence. In the past, many people believed that it is our IQ – our intelligence – that determines our success, but actually studies have shown that IQ only counts for about 20% of our success, and it is our EQ – our emotional intelligence, how we deal with our emotions – that accounts for 80% of our success.

When I took the Emotions Mentor course with one of our doTERRA leaders, Rebecca Hintze, earlier this year, we learned of different ways to develop emotional intelligence. For children, the first steps I am going to cover in this article are helping children to identify what they are feeling, and then giving them tools that they can independently manage those emotions.

How to help children identify their emotions

Quite often, it can be tricky for us as adults to really understand how we are feeling, and so when we put ourselves in the shoes of a child, particularly a young child, we can start to see how this may prove quite difficult for them. One of the greatest gifts we can give a child in terms of their emotional intelligence is helping them to identify their emotions.

Verbally, we can do this by naming their emotions for them – if you can see they are frustrated, sad or angry, you can say something like “I can see you are feeling sad about that”. We can also give them different scenarios where they act as the observer, and try to see how people would feel in those situations. When children argue or hurt each other, we can ask the hurt child to tell the other child how they are feeling – “when you pinched me that really hurt and made me feel very sad”. In Montessori, when we are introducing new vocabulary, we would also use cards in a game (see here for an example).

Once children can identify their emotions, we can give them tools to express these that can be quite fun.

For younger children, I really liked the look of this Lego Emotions Chart (I know my son would love this!). For older children, they could illustrate what each emotion represents to them, such as in this Emotions Wheel.

Using Essential Oils

One of the tools doTERRA gives us is the Emotional Aromatherapy Wheel. Here we have a whole range of emotions that we, as adults, can use to help identify how we are feeling. It then gives us, at a glance, which emotional aromatherapy blend can be used as a tool to address that emotion. You can also download the Daily Drop App and use the Determine Your Mood function on there to do this too.

Essential oils are particularly effective in affecting our mood. When we inhale an aroma, this is processed by our olfactory system and directly affects the limbic seat of our brain – where emotions and memories are stored and this creates a rush of emotional response by the limbic system. This is quite a complex response, and you can find out more about emotional aromatherapy in this ebook. Other chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, can also stimulate the limbic system, and it is often issues with these that lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and so on. One of the reasons the healthy exchange of neurotransmitters is weakened is because of poor nutrition, and so ensuring that children receive a good, healthy diet, with quality supplementation, such as the A2Z Chewables and IQ Mega that are available from doTERRA is essential as a foundation to all wellness, including emotional wellness. The exchange of neurotransmitters can also be blocked by toxicity in the body, so switching to all natural products, using the OnGuard range for cleaning and personal care, and so on, can help reduce this toxicity. Another point to remember is that 90% of our serotonin (our ‘happy’ hormone) is produced in our gut, and so the importance of a healthy microbiome in our childrens’ guts is paramount. Children who are born by c-section or who are not breastfed, or those who have had any antibiotics, could be affected by this, and so using a good probiotic, such as the PB Assist Jr is a good way to help support this healthy microbiome.

Back to essential oils…

I got a bit distracted there, but these are all really important things to also remember when we are looking at our children’s emotional wellness.

Remember at the beginning of this article, I mentioned that 2 steps to emotional intelligence is to firstly, identify our emotions, and secondly, to use tools to manage these? Well, looking at the Emotional Aromatherapy Wheel, you can see there that this is a great resource for us as adults to do this, but is possibly a little too complex for particularly younger children.

Earlier in 2017, doTERRA launched the Emotional Aromatherapy TOUCH range, which features all of the six emotional aromatherapy blends on that wheel, pre-diluted at a safe ratio of oils to fractionated coconut oil for young children to use, in an easy-to-apply rollerball format.

The oils in this kit are:

Cheer – the Uplifting Blend of a mix of citrus and spice oils – wild orange, clove, star anise, lemon myrtle, nutmeg, vanilla bean, ginger, cinnamon, zdravetz
Motivate – the Encouraging Blend of a mix of mint and citrus oils – peppermint, clementine, coriander, basil, yuzu, melissa, rosemary, vanilla bean
Passion – the Inspiring Blend of spice and herb oils – cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clove, sandalwood, jasmine, vanilla bean, damiana
Peace – the Reassuring Blend of floral and mint oils – vetiver, lavender, ylang ylang, frankincense, clary sage, marjoram, labdanum, spearmint
Forgive – the Renewing Blend of tree and herb oils – spruce, bergamot, juniper berry, myrrh, arborvitae, nootka tree, thyme, citronella
Console – the Comforting Blend of a mix of tree and floral oils – frankincense, patchouli, ylang ylang, labdanum, amyris, sandalwood, rose & osmanthus.

doTERRA Touch Emotions Cards

Where the Emotional Aromatherapy Wheel is great for adults, we need a resource for children. These TOUCH Emotion Cards are great for children – they help children to identify how they are feeling, either by looking at the emotion the child on them is showing, or by reading the word of the emotion underneath it. Once they have done this (the first stage), all they need to do is to turn the cards over, and they can see which of the TOUCH rollerballs they need to use. Remember, these are perfectly safe for a child to use, and they can be taught to apply the oils on their pulse points on the wrists, behind the ears and/or on the chest.

How to use the cards

  1. Download the cards here (these are for personal use only please).
  2. Print off the pdf, cut out the cards and pair up the image and the oil(s). You may need to lightly glue these before laminating.
  3. Laminate the cards and cut out again.
  4. Introduce them to your child, and show them how to use them.
  5. From age 3 (or depending on your child – you know them best), you can choose a special spot where your child can independently choose the card of how they feel and their corresponding rollerball (they can even just colour match the labels) and apply it on their own. Trust your child and of course you can always be watching from a distance, but true emotional intelligence really does need them to be able to do this independently. Again, go with your knowledge of your own child to work this one out!

In Montessori, we have Peace Tables, where children can go to have a quiet time, or even for conflict resolution, and setting up a little area like this would be a lovely thing for your child. You could have the rollerballs there, either out or in a little case, and the cards. You could also have a diffuser with a drop or two of calming essential oils in there, that the child can turn on for themselves. I love diffusers – they are so safe – they don’t heat up, and they cut out if the water runs out or if it is knocked over. They could just turn it on for a little while for the duration of their time sat in this little peace corner or area, and turn it off when they leave it.

Now, you may be wondering, could my 3 year old really do this? Well, my answer to that is yes absolutely this is age appropriate. The oils are safe to use, are safely diluted for use with toddlers and upwards, and you can always do a patch test on the inside of their wrists and elbows first, although I have not had to do this with my children. Do not underestimate your child, and allow them to be independent within limits. Maybe if you know they have used the rollerball once, you may choose to remove these if your child tends to overuse them. Keep an eye on them, they won’t be completely unsupervised, but they can still feel independent even if you are watching from a little way away. They may also want to involve you in the process, and of course that is wonderfully ok! Just so what is right for your family, but keep in mind that they need to be working towards identifying their own emotions and using tools themselves to set them up for long term emotional success.

Have fun with your littlies!

Additional resources

Examples of Montessori Peace Tables
Calm Down Cards