Self-awareness in young children

by | Aug 26, 2020

Self-awareness is a vital skill that helps all of us to cope with social challenges. Cindy Glass, founder and owner of Step Up Education Centres, looks at how you can instill self-awareness in your child from a young age.

The act of being human means that we are a one-stop-shop for an array of emotions and feelings. These emotions play an incredibly powerful role in helping us make choices, and the choices that we make define the path of our lives. Therefore, it is essential that we consider the importance of teaching young children how to identify, acknowledge and manage their feelings and emotions.

The how-tos

Here are some tips to help teach your child the essential skill of self-awareness.

Communication is key. Talk to your children about their emotions and listen sincerely to their answers ‒ without judgement. This will help them become more aware of how they are feeling and, with your encouragement, they will find more positive solutions to any number of challenges.

Use phrases such as: “What was the best/worst thing that happened today?” “How did that make you feel?” “I hear you …” “I can understand how that must have upset you …”

Use visual aids to teach young children what feelings ‘look’ like. Use characters from their favourite TV shows or movies to help them identify the emotions expressed in facial expressions and body language. Ask them if they have ever felt the same way. Discuss these feelings in context of what happened when they felt a certain way and whether they could have made a more helpful choice at the time.

Use role-play activities to help your child identify different emotions. Ask your child to show you what happy, sad, angry, excited or scared looks like. Let them express these emotions in their facial expressions and body language.

Encourage them to use words as well. Being able to name an emotion will help your child manage their reactions to these emotions so much better. You can use role- play activities to help your child make better choices as well. For example, act out a scenario where something has made your child feel afraid and angry. Once the emotion has been acknowledged, without judgement, find a positive solution together.

Teach your children to take responsibility for the choices that they have made. Blaming others has no value. We all make mistakes ‒ own them and learn from them. Help your children understand that every choice has a consequence. We are free to make any choice that we want. The consequences, however, will be there no matter whether we want them or not.

Teach your children to value who they are so that they will value others around them. Help them to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that your children understand that everyone is good at some things and not at others. Give them opportunities to explore their strengths and interests. Encourage your children to embrace their weaknesses while delighting in any progress made, no matter how small.

Children do what we do and not what we say. You are your child’s first and longest-lasting teacher. Your children watch your every move, listen to everything you say and observe how you react to challenging situations. They see how you behave towards others and they learn how to react in anger or hurt by the way you choose to react.

This has to be one of the most important lessons that a parent must learn. You cannot teach your child self-awareness skills if you do not practice them yourself! Are you aware of your emotions and feelings and how these affect yourself and others in your world? Do you recognise and acknowledge your emotions and choose to make positive choices for yourself and your family as a result?

By making a decision to learn and master self-awareness skills, you will greatly enhance YOUR life and your children will most certainly benefit as well.

As with all learning, persistence, determination and patience are key to success.