Want to help your first-grader with their social awareness skills? Here are some tips that experts suggest.
Discuss situations that occur in everyday life
Take a conversation you had with a friend, family member, or clerk at the supermarket that your child has witnessed and ask them to point out the language, body language, and facial expressions that were exchanged. You can also role-play with their stuffed animals or favorite toys to show what your child would have done in that situation. Even though your child was present when you had this exchange, it’s always a good idea to ask them what they think happened, how people felt, and how your child could tell this, before you provide your own interpretation of the situation.
Play a game of "feelings charades"
A good way to teach your child about body language, emotions, and empathy is to have their play a game of “feelings charades.” You can use flashcards with different faces, or even write emotions or behaviors that hurt others on pieces of paper and let your child pick one out of a hat. Take turns acting out the way a person would be feeling with either the emotion that’s on the paper or the face that’s on the card. This will help start discussions on topics that a child this age might be reluctant to talk about otherwise.
Observe the behavior of pets
If you have pets, you can also use them to help teach your child about social awareness. A dog or a cat, for example, will behave in specific ways when it is feeling happy, angry, playful, or tired. Point out these behaviors to your child as they appear, and explain to them how these emotions are similar to those experienced by the people around her.
Teach your child about personal space
Be specific when you are talking about what’s appropriate and what’s not, and provide them with visual cues. For example, you can have them stretch out their arms and explain that this is their personal space and that your child should provide other children with that much space when interacting with them. Remind them that when your child gets too close to another person or touches them, they might react negatively. You can also use stuffed animals or action figures to act out what’s appropriate and what is not.
To learn more about social awareness for your child, check out our first-grade social awareness page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author, and Educational Psychologist.