The idea for this book originated because we (the authors) were concerned about the quality of life that teenagers are experiencing. We all know that the teenage years are an especially stressful time for adolescents as they struggle to establish their personal identities. They are being asked to make decisions that may have profound effects on their lives. Because we care about their futures and want them to be competitive, parents and professionals alike are providing these youngsters with challenging curricular and extracurricular opportunities. Unfortunately, minimal attention seems to be paid to the development of the emotional aspects of their lives.
Psychologists are appropriately concerned with the development of the whole individual. In their quest to understand what makes some of us happy and successful these researchers have extended the boundaries of what it really means to be smart. Current thinking defines intelligent folks as those who understand who they are, and what they need to be successful. They make decisions based on their interests, talents and values. They learn how to be self-regulated as they manage their lives based on what matters most. (Gardner, 1983,99; Goleman, 1995; Sternberg, 1996).
Where in the school curriculum do teenagers learn these skills? We know that youngsters have many demands made upon them, especially those who attend school outside of their country. For these students expectations are high and students work hard to meet these expectations. A downside of the benefits of these opportunities is the susceptibility of feeling stressed. High achievers are particularly susceptible to stress for many reasons. Their high ability and perception that they must achieve encourage them to bite off much more than they can chew (Baker, 1996; Buescher, 1985). Inadvertently, the adults in the lives of these children may have contributed to the problem by providing a plethora of opportunities for the students to develop their talents as a means to assure them a better than average chance to succeed in a competitive world. However, the adults may have neglected to model how to manage it all. In so doing parents and teachers alike may have become a part of the problem, not the solution (Nicols & Baum, 2000).
In short what kind of stress do adolescent international students experience? Do their high-test scores and busy lives come at an emotional cost? In essence is there a need for a curriculum addressing emotional intelligence?