As adults, we have learned how to tune into our emotions and to make connections between events and outcomes. For example, if you have had a bad day at work, you may come home in a bad mood. The connection between the two is probably easy for you to identify, and you most likely have some strategies that you can use to help yourself feel better; you may ask for some space to cool off or for emotional support from your spouse or a friend. When your children have bad days, they do not necessarily have strategies that they can use. Also, it is likely much more challenging for them to anticipate and recognize the emotions that they are experiencing. Consider the following discussions and actions that might help children to become more self-aware.
Identify Challenges for Prevention
One way that you can help your children develop self-awareness is by identifying reoccurring challenges. For example, maybe your children have a hard time getting up in the morning, which makes mornings a struggle. You might talk with them about how they feel in the morning and what strategies could be put in place to avoid stress. Choosing their clothes and packing their backpacks the night before may help to reduce the stress.
Another area that is often a reoccurring challenge is homework completion. Talk with your children about the times of day or evening that they prefer to complete homework and the resources they need to be successful. If procrastination is an issue, discuss the outcome of that decision and how it makes them feel. This will help them to link their procrastination with the negative outcome.
Brainstorm Strategies for Coping
Self-awareness can be encouraged by brainstorming strategies that children can use when they become frustrated or distracted. Model for them some of the strategies that you use and then encourage them to share their thoughts. Make sure to be open to all of their ideas and to provide enough wait time so they can reflect on what you are discussing and formulate their thoughts.
Some ideas you can suggest are:
- taking a body break (one minute of physical activity)
- having a snack
- taking three deep breaths
- closing their eyes and imaging places where they feel happy
Finally, you can encourage your children to practise self-reflection. This is something that they have most likely done in the classroom, so they should have some experience with it. Take a moment after your child completes a task or faces a challenge, and have them reflect on it. This reflection sheet is in the form of 2 stars (two successes) and 1 wish (an area for improvement). When you are talking with your child, make sure to phrase questions in an open-ended way. For example, ask “how might you solve that problem?” instead of “what will you do to solve that problem?” This language helps to engage children in higher order thinking.
For more information about how to help your child develop self-awareness, please contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225 or visit www.ruthrumack.com.