How to teach self-awareness skills in your classroom

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The act of being human means that we are a one-stop-shop for an array of emotions and feelings. These emotions play an incredibly powerful role in helping us make choices and the choices that we make define the path of our lives. Many people find themselves in the unfortunate position of not being aware of how they are feeling and are unable to cope with social challenges as a result.

People who have not yet learned the skill of self-awareness may struggle to make positive life-choices and achieving their goals and dreams becomes an unnecessary struggle.  Personal relationships may also be affected and many relationships crumble under the pressures of a lack of self-awareness skills.

In light of this, it is essential that we consider the importance of teaching our students how to identify, acknowledge and manage their feelings and emotions. Young children find it very difficult to express how they are feeling and, as a result, may act-out in frustration instead.

Self-awareness skills will help your students tune in to their feelings, thoughts and actions. In addition, these essential life-skills will give them an understanding of how their emotions, feelings and behaviors affect themselves and the people around them. Self-awareness skills also help children identify their personal strengths and weakness, without judgement to themselves or others. Furthermore, self-confidence and a positive sense of self-worth are developed, and leadership skills are enhanced.

Children who master self-awareness skills enjoy more fulfilling relationships with the people in their world and they are better able to learn new skills. They enjoy more creative play and bullying incidences are greatly reduced. (It is important to note that the student who chooses to bully another and the student who is being bullied both lack self-awareness skills in different ways.)

We need to understand that every choice that we make defines the path of our lives.  Most often, negative behaviours are rooted in fear, low self-esteem, self-defeating and destructive self-talk and low self-value. At the core of all these choices are our emotions and feelings. Teaching your students to identify and manage their emotions is one of the greatest gifts that you can give!

Let’s consider some useful tips to help you teach young students the essential skill of self-awareness:

  1. Communication is key. We need to talk to our students about their emotions and listen sincerely to their answers-without judgement.  This will help them become more aware of how they are feeling, and with your encouragement, they will find more positive solutions to any number of challenges.
  2. Use visual aids to teach younger students what feelings ‘look’ like. Use cartoon characters to help them identify the emotions expressed in facial expressions and body language. Ask them if they have ever felt the same way. Discuss these feelings in context of what happened when they felt a certain way and whether they could have made a more helpful choice at the time.
  3. Use role-play activities to help your students identify different emotions. Ask your students to show you what happy, sad, angry, excited, scared… looks like. Let them express these emotions in their facial expressions and body language.  Encourage them to use words as well. Being able to name an emotion will help your students manage their reactions to these emotions so much better. You can use role- play activities to help your students make better choices as well. For example, act out a scenario where something has made your students feel afraid and angry. Once the emotion has been acknowledged, without judgement, find a positive solution together.
  4. Teach your students to take responsibility for the choices that they have made.  Blaming others has no value. We all make mistakes- own them and learn from them. Help your students understand that every choice has a consequence.  We are free to make any choice that we want.  The consequences, however, will be there no matter whether we want them or not.
  5. Teach your students to value who they are so that they will value others around them. Help them to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that your students understand that everyone is good at some things and not at others. Give them opportunities to explore their strengths and interests.  Encourage your students to embrace their weaknesses while delighting in any progress made, no matter how small.  
  6. Children do what we do and not always what we say. Your students watch your every move, listen to everything you say and observe how you react to challenging situations. They see how you behave towards others, and they learn how to react in anger or hurt by the way you choose to react. You cannot teach your students self-awareness skills if you do not practice them yourself. Are you aware of your emotions and feelings and how these affect yourself and others in your world? Do you recognise and acknowledge your emotions and choose to make positive choices for yourself and your students as a result? By making a decision to learn and master self-awareness skills, you will greatly enhance your life and your students will most certainly benefit as well.

As with all learning, time, determination, and patience are key to success. The benefits to mastering self-awareness skills are immense and the efforts made to achieve this well worth it!