Self-awareness is knowing yourself. It’s identifying your emotions, strengths, and challenges, and knowing how your emotions affect your behavior. At this age, middle-schoolers often become much more influenced by their feelings, but may not be aware of how these emotions influence their behavior. When they build self-awareness, they can recognize their emotional triggers and strengths. They may seek out groups, clubs, or classes that appeal to their strengths, and they may have more realistic expectations for themselves when it comes to their challenges. Self-awareness is key to managing actions and setting goals for the future; it is a skill that will help your child thrive.
During the middle-school years, young people are in transition from childhood to adolescence, and this can have an effect on their behavior. This phase is marked by emotional and physical growth. The onset of puberty may also make some teens unpredictable or moody and can cause them to feel out of control of their changing bodies. You can help your teen navigate through these years by taking the time to listen to their concerns and providing guidance and encouragement.
Your middle-schooler may be able to accurately identify their emotions and the complexities of different emotions like jealousy, disappointment, and pride. Your child may also be able to identify the causes of certain emotions, like stress, anger, or excitement.
Your middle-schooler is also developing a better understanding of their strengths and challenges and may begin making choices based on that understanding. For example, if your child has a talent in music and elects to take a choir class instead of a gym class even though their friends are all taking gym, they are showing self-awareness.
Don’t be surprised if your child’s self-awareness appears inconsistent. Director of Rutgers Social and Emotional Learning Lab Maurice Elias says that your child may not be confident enough to truly know their emotions and not doubt them if their peers feel differently. Self-awareness may be inconsistent as your child sorts out what your child really believes about their feelings and what your child thinks their friends want them to feel.
Keep in mind that every adolescent develops at a different rate, leading to different social and emotional behaviors. 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). If you have concerns about your adolescent’s development, please contact their teacher or school counselor or your healthcare provider.
Learn more about how to support your child with our sixth-grade self-awareness tips 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 and Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids.