Think back to your school days. What were you taught? How to break down the author’s meaning in their writing, how to paint abstract objects, and how to use Pythagoras’s Theorem (I have yet to use it in real life thank you very much Mr Math teacher)? What we aren’t taught is how to navigate social situations, how to manage reactions and how to become both self and socially aware.
What are these I hear you ask?
Self-awareness comes from understanding your own emotions and thoughts and distinguishing them from others. Children need to understand their own emotions before they can be expected to understand others.
Social awareness is the ability to empathize with and understand the perspective of someone else, even though their background and culture might be different from yours.
Social awareness piggybacks off self-awareness and it is important to encourage your children to be socially aware. If our children are socially aware, it means they are also compassionate and able to empathise with other feelings even in the midst of argument. Activates like the Wheel of Emotions, Detective Thinking and Identifying our Thoughts found on the ParentalEQ BackPack App, can help to teach your kids self-regulation and to understand their emotions to help with teaching them self and social awareness.
Be kind and helpful to others – sounds easy, right?
Their world dramatically shifts when they hit the school zone. Their friend groups expand, and they develop skills outside the house. Influences also become a big thing with the introduction of peers in different age groups and teachers. My youngest went from loving The Wiggles to wanting nothing to do with them because a new friend told him it was baby-ish. Right after I did all his birthday shopping too.
When kids understand their own emotional triggers, they can recognise the how and why other kids react to the same situation or triggers. This can help them understand empathy.
We recently threw my son a birthday party at a place filled with jumping castles and the freedom to run aroundlike crazy. While it was amazing to see him interact with all his friends, it was funny to watch him change his reactions to fit certain people. He was loud and rough with the loud kids, soft and gentle with the quieter ones and a downright tornado with everyone in between.
When he witnessed one of his friends sitting by himself, his whole body changed. He was over there in a flash when he realised this. He got down on the floor and wrapped his arm around him telling him it was okay. After a few minutes, they both got up – hand in hand – and came to the table for cake. I couldn’t have been prouder.
Home will always be a recharging point for kids as well as their biggest influences. It is a place to relax, be themselves and breathe after a long day of deciphering many new social dynamics. My daughter comes home and unloads. Sometimes it is all positive, sometimes it is all negative and sometimes it’s confusion of social cues that she may have missed. My son on the other hand just likes to talk about Pokémon cards. It is a great chance to open up and let them see things from a different point of view.
So how can we help teach our kids social awareness?
- Read books with your kids and talk about how the characters feel and react.
- Explain your own emotions with your kids. Whenever they do something I don’t like, after it is all said and done, I try to explain why I was mad or upset and how what they did made me feel. I encourage them to tell me how they felt and feel as well.
- Role play when conflict arises. Ask your child how they would feel if a situation happened to them. Putting them into the shoes of someone else can raise their social awareness and understanding.
- Play detective. It’s no secret we all like a little bit of people watching when we are out and about so why not use it as a chance to teach your kids about non-verbal cues and body language? Hunched over can mean sad; a laugh means happy; pacing can mean worried – these little cues can go a long way in helping them understand empathy for others.
Social awareness is an important foundation for a better, kinder society. It enables positive connections that can break through cultures, religions, and age. It can reduce conflict and smooth interaction which in turn can lead to a more comfortable learning environment.
ParentalEQ BackPack App’s new module called Thinking of Others helps break down the benefits of being self and socially aware as well as tips and tricks on how to help your children navigate social situations.
After all, in the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”
Melodically scribed by Casey Luxford