Social awareness is the ability to take the perspectives of others and apply it to your interactions with them. Daily interactions with peers and teachers can help build your child’s social awareness, but you play the greatest role in their social development.
During these early elementary years, when children are in a formal school setting, they’re interacting with more peers and adults. This increased exposure to others begins to broaden their understanding of the world. Children at this age are developing the ability to identify their feelings and what causes them. They are also learning how to manage their emotions and behave appropriately. You can help your child develop her social and emotional skills. The concepts highlighted in this section are based on the five sets of competencies developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
During the early elementary years, children are learning how to communicate their needs and emotions verbally, and how to identify what others are feeling based on their facial expressions and body language.
As children gain a better sense of other people’s perspectives and behaviors and start to understand that feelings play a major role in the nature of relationships, they are developing social awareness.
By the time your child is 7 to 8 years old, your child should be sensitive to others’ feelings and respond well to group interactions. Occasionally, children who are 7 or 8 find that their word skills far exceed their social and emotional skills. At this age, they can be quite skilled at saying comments that are hurtful or harsh without realizing their impact. As your child begins to understand that there are more and less appropriate ways to express themselves and that what your child says and does affects others, they are strengthening their ability to make friends and be a productive part of their community.
Keep in mind that every child has different levels of social awareness, as this can be a product of both their nature and the interactions they have had since infancy. Some children may display a low level of social awareness, when in fact they are shy or introverted. Children’s literature can be a good way to level the playing field, as it contains relevant examples that can help your child understand their behavior and the behavior of others, which your child will need to do in order to successfully engage in their relationships.
At this early age, children are learning how to interact with others and how to recognize their feelings and needs, although they may not yet know how to apply empathy to all of their interactions. For instance, your child may not fully understand why a classmate gets upset when she takes a pencil away without asking for it. As your child grows and becomes more socially aware, he or she should be able to better identify how their actions make others feel.
Keep in mind every child develops at his or her own pace. If you have concerns about your child’s development, please contact your healthcare provider or your child’s teacher or school counselor.
Learn more about how to support your child with our second-grade social awareness tips page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Anne Morrison, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Lycée Français de New York; Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; and Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids.