Self-awareness is defined as being aware of your strengths, weaknesses, moods, and feelings. By helping your child develop self-awareness, they’ll be better able to understand themselves and to see the impact of their actions on themselves and others. They’ll then be better balanced to face difficult situations at home, school, and with others. Their self-esteem will undoubtedly be enhanced.
When should parents begin to help foster self-awareness skills in young children?
You can start promoting self-awareness when children are about two years old. Through various activities and ongoing practice, they’ll eventually sharpen and apply self-awareness skills when needed.
How does self-awareness develop?
Like other skills, self-awareness develops over time. Kids first need to recognize and name their emotions, identify their strengths and challenges, and acknowledge their likes and dislikes.
What activities can parents do with their children to promote self-awareness?
Children can be taught about different emotions and how these emotions make them feel through a variety of fun, engaging activities.
Here are 6 activities to do just that!
- Activity: Draw or find pictures online and paste them on a piece of paper. Each page will have a separate drawing or picture. For example, you could have a picture of a playground on one page. Talk to the child about the picture so they understand the image. Then you draw a circle for a face and the child draws in the facial features how they feel about that picture. They would most likely draw a happy face because the playground makes them feel happy. Then you can talk to them how the picture made them feel and about how they show that feeling. You can add other pages for different emotions.
Purpose: Through identifying different emotions, the child learns about self-awareness and how to express their feelings. They also begin to see that through emotions, we can tell how people feel.
- Activity: Read a book that reveals a character or experience that captivates your child. There are many popular books for preschool children that you can find at the public library, online, or you may even own. Change the volume and tone of your voice, add pauses, etc. to build suspense and interest. When you’re finished reading the story, discuss what your child liked in the story (and what made them happy), and what makes them _____ (other emotions that applied to the story). Talk about how the story could be changed to make it different. Then, with these changes, how does the story make the child feel?
Purpose: By attending to a scenario presented in a story, children develop empathy. Through changing the storyline, your child is encouraged to think about what they would do differently and how this set of circumstances also changes how they feel.
- Activity: Talk about different animals and what they’re good at. For example, squirrels are good at collecting nuts, dogs love to chase cats, and fish are good at swimming. Then talk about what the members of the child’s family are good at. For children who more easily grasp this concept, you can also talk about the positive characteristics the specific animals and the family members have. For example, the squirrel is hard-working, the dog is alert and fast, and the fish is strong. Finally, talk about the child. What are they good at? What are their characteristics?
Purpose: Children express themselves and can see how others have strengths and weaknesses by identifying what they’re good at. It also informs children that everyone has strengths and that you can work on your weaknesses to do better. Further, it teaches children that others perceive them a certain way and that actions help form these perceptions.
- Activity: Talk often to your child about their day. What did they do? What did they like? What was hard for them? If something was difficult for them, use the words “I can’t do it, yet.” Teach them to ask for what they need help with. For example, maybe they can’t jump on two feet by themselves, but they can ask you to hold their hand when they jump. Or maybe they can’t write their name, but they can ask you to write dotted-line letters and they can trace them.
Purpose: Interactions help the child communicate their feelings and express themselves. They’re better able to see their abilities and how they can self-advocate to speak up for what they need. They recognize their strengths and challenges.
- Activity: Make a chore chart with your child. Draw the chore that your child is capable of completing for their age. This might be picking up their toys after play, wiping off their chalkboard, feeding the pet fish, and helping set the table. After the child completes the “chore,” offer praise and a sticker on the chart. This reinforces the idea that doing these “chores” made someone happy. In time, they’ll also be happy to complete the chore because it makes them feel happy, too.
Purpose: The main goal of this activity is not to teach responsibility, but to show how your actions can make others feel including yourself.
- Activity: It’s often difficult for young children to apply appropriate skills to actual situations that involve themselves. You can role play with your child to practice skills like sharing, saying sorry, expressing appreciation, being patient, respecting others’ property, accepting feedback, and forgiving. The parent needs to take a leading role in showing examples of how to do these behaviors. It helps to verbalize your actions along with the action. For example, the child is building a tall tower. The child puts on a block; the parent puts on a block. You take turns building it.
Purpose: The main goal of this activity isn’t to teach responsibility, but to show how your actions can make others feel including yourself.
As children grow, their self-awareness skills will unfold. It’s important to nurture these skills so your child can reach their greatest potential.