1st grade self-awareness tips: Here's how to help your child

Here's how you can help your first-grader become more self-aware.

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By Jamie Farnsworth Finn

Want to help your first-grader develop their self-awareness skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.

Show your child what feelings look like

Get a poster, or draw one with your child, of faces with different emotions. Ask your child to identify one of the emotions on the poster and when your child last felt this way and why. Ask them how they're feeling now and why your child feels that way. This will increase their vocabulary while also helping them more accurately identify their emotions.

Help your child identify the feelings of others

Take opportunities every day to help your child identify the feelings of others. How does their face look when your child feels that way? Pointing out emotions in others is a good way to help your child begin to understand those feelings in herself. Teacher Clare Morrison suggests also asking, “Show me what happy looks like for you,” and, “What does sad look like to you?” By making a facial expression, your child is better able to connect the emotion to their own body language.

Point out feelings using family pictures

Many young children like to look at family photos. Take the opportunity to talk about emotions that family members are feeling. For example, wedding photos will be filled with happy people. Point out their smiles and their expressions. This could be a good opportunity to point out that someone who is crying isn’t always sad. In some cases, it can mean someone is very happy.

Talk about your child's emotions as she's having them

For example, if your child seems angry or frustrated, teacher Clare Morrison suggests saying, “I noticed your eyebrows are closer together and your arms are folded. Tell me how you’re feeling right now.” By prompting your child to talk about their feelings as they're having them, you can help them identify their feelings. Try not to label their emotion for them by saying, “You look mad” or “You look sad.” Instead, let them give a name for the way they are feeling as your child begins to connect their body language to an emotion.

Help your child recognize her strengths

When a child shows interest in an activity or topic, it is often because they have a strength related to it. One of the best ways to help your child understand and value their strengths is to encourage their ideas and interests. You can begin to do this by asking what your child likes or noting a topic your child talks a great deal about. Nurture their interest by finding related activities. For example, you can both take part in volunteering at an animal shelter if they're interested in cats. Whatever the activity may be, by encouraging your child’s interests, you are helping to define and enhance their strengths and build their confidence.

To learn more about self-awareness for your child, check out our first-grade self-awareness page.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Clare Morrison, Teacher, Anchorage School District, and Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids.