Children grow and change rapidly, both physically and emotionally. As parents, we strive to help our children understand who they are, what they believe in, and how to be independent and competent adults. We aren’t trying to raise clones of ourselves, but recognize that our children are separate and unique and we need to help them grow into their authentic selves with love and acceptance.
Why do we need self-awareness?
Developing a sense of independent self is one of the primary tasks of adolescence, but children desire to understand themselves and the world long before they reach their teen years. Self-understanding helps all of us navigate life and build meaningful connections. Without it, we feel lost and alone.
Benefits of understanding yourself include:
- Ability to regulate your emotions and moods
- Satisfying relationships with others
- A strong sense of self-worth
- Achieving your goals
- Independent thought
- Acting in alignment with your beliefs
- Ability to respond rather than react
- Thoughtful decision-making
Teachers, therapists, and parents can help children understand themselves.
From the very beginning, our goal is for our children to eventually individuate or separate themselves from us; not just physically (move away from home), but also emotionally. We want our children to understand and recognize their feelings, to be able to calm themselves when they’re upset, and to have the coping skills to overcome struggles. We want our children to think for themselves, to develop their own ideas, and to recognize that they can have feelings and beliefs different than our own.
The self-awareness exercises below were adapted from the original 26 Questions to Help You Know Yourself Better that I wrote for adults. These proved to be so popular, that I was encouraged to create a similar list to help children come to know and understand themselves better.
Some notes about the 26 Questions to Help Kids Know Themselves Better: These questions or journaling prompts are generally appropriate for children ages 10 and older, but please use your judgment when giving them to a particular child. These questions can bring up strong feelings or memories for some kids. It’s important that you provide an opportunity for them to process their answers and feelings with a supportive adult, but also respect a child’s privacy (unless you are concerned about safety).
Questions to help children know and understand themselves:
- What are your strengths?
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
- What are your goals for this school year?
- Who do you talk to when you have a problem? How do they help?
- What do you like to do for fun?
- What are you worried about?
- What do you wish your parents knew about you? What do you wish your friends or classmates knew about you?
- If you could have one wish, what would it be?
- What do you feel ashamed of?
- Where do you feel safest?
- If you weren’t afraid, what would you do?
- What does failure mean to you? Have you ever felt like a failure? How did you cope?
- How can you tell that you’re getting angry? What does your body feel like? What are you thinking?
- How are you different?
- What’s something that adults (parents, grandparents, teachers, etc.) say to you that’s really stuck with you? Do you think they’re right?
- What do you do when people don’t seem to like you?
- What is your proudest accomplishment?
- What things are in your control? What’s out of your control? How does it feel to notice that some things are out of your control?
- What do you like about your school? What do you dislike?
- What do you do when you’re stressed out?
- What’s something nice you could say to yourself?
- What is your happiest memory?
- What do you do when you’re feeling down? Do you think it’s OK to cry? Do you think it’s OK to yell?
- What is your favorite book? Movie? Band? Food? Color? Animal?
- What are you grateful for?
- What do you like about yourself?
© 2016 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
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