Want to help your fourth-grader develop their self-awareness skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.
Use many different words to describe your own emotions around your child
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.
To help your child develop self-awareness, encourage him to get involved in school musicals or community 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 son 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 emotions, especially complex emotions for your child
For example, take a moment to point out complex feelings and ask your child why they think the character feels the way they do. 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 their 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 fourth-graders experiences to characters’ emotions can help them 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 fourth-grader identify patterns and causes. If they often write about feeling excited by an upcoming sports game or travel, they 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 fourth-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.