3rd Grade Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to accurately identify emotions and the behaviors they can trigger, as well as accurately identifying personal strengths and weaknesses. Put simply, it is about knowing what makes you tick. As your child enters this late elementary age, he is more likely to be able to grasp the range of emotions he experiences and what causes them. He may also have a more robust emotional vocabulary than he did in younger years, though he may still be learning to identify more complex emotions, like disappointment or rejection. Understanding your child’s development in the emotional realm can help you support his growth and help steer him through situations that he may find difficult. Children’s temperaments vary widely, and your child may be extremely adept at identifying his feelings or he may have difficulty with it. Both ends of the spectrum are considered normal, but if you have concerns over your child’s development it’s best to talk to his health care provider.

What Does Self-Awareness Look Like at This Age?
At ages 8 and 9 your child may be able to distinguish how the same emotion can mean different things in different situations. For example, your child may be able to identify someone crying at a wedding as being very happy, while identifying a child crying after falling down at the park as being hurt. 
Your child should also be able to begin to understand his own strengths and challenges. For instance, if your child is developing acting or musical skills and decides to join the drama club or a school musical, even if his best friend plays soccer, he is showing he’s self-aware.

Tips to Support Self-Awareness

  1. Use Different Words to Describe Your Emotions

    For example, instead of saying “I’m happy we all get to spend the weekend together” try using a word like “grateful” or “thankful” or “glad.” Exposing your child to more words can help build his emotional vocabulary. Sean Slade, director of the Whole Child Initiative at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, recommends also sharing the reasons behind your feelings. By explaining what makes you tick, you are modeling self-awareness and showing how other people’s actions can affect your moods.

  2. Encourage Your Child to Get Involved in School Musicals or Plays

    Many schools and communities have opportunities for children this age to take part in acting, which builds on their self-awareness by letting them act out feelings. If your child isn’t interested in performing himself, take him to watch actors in a local play or musical, or to the movies, and talk about how the actors knew which expressions to make in order to accurately portray the character’s feelings.

  3. Use Books or TV to Point Out Complex Emotions

    For example, take a moment to point out complex feelings and ask your child why he thinks the character feels the way she does. Is the character jealous of a classmate while also feeling rejected by not being invited to her birthday party? For children who are less self-aware, you can go a step further and relate the characters to your child. Teacher Anne Harlam suggests saying, “The character reminds me of you -- people like to talk to her because she is a good listener!” or, “The character reminds me of the time when you were nervous because you didn’t have any of your old friends in your class.” Relating your child’s experiences to characters’ emotions can help your child build self-awareness. For age-appropriate book examples, see our reading list.

  4. Encourage Your Child to Keep a Journal

    Promise not to read it and keep that promise. Allowing your child an outlet to describe what he’s feeling and thinking can help him verbalize his feelings. Having those emotions and thoughts written down will also help your child identify patterns and causes. If he often writes about feeling excited by an upcoming sports game or travel, he may recognize those events as triggers for his emotions. Neurologist and teacher Judy Willis recommends also providing a separate response journal where your child can write down feelings and ask questions that you respond to. Writing down thoughts may be a more comfortable way for your child to discuss feelings than actually speaking about them. 

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