3rd grade self-awareness tips: Here's how to help your child

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

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By Jamie Farnsworth Finn

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

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 their 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.

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.

Use books or TV to point out complex emotions

For example, take a moment to point out complex feelings and ask your child why your child thinks the character feels the way your child does. Is the character jealous of a classmate while also feeling rejected by not being invited to their 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 them because they are 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.

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 their feelings. Having those emotions and thoughts written down will also help your child identify patterns and causes. If your child often writes about feeling excited by an upcoming sports game or travel, your child may recognize those events as triggers for their 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.

To learn more about self-awareness for your child, check out our third-grade self-awareness 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; Sean Slade, Director of Outreach, ASCD; and Judy Willis, Neurologist, Teacher, Author, International Lecturer, University of California, Santa Barbara.