Social Awareness in Children: Teaching Them Right

Social Awareness is a fundamental aspect of Emotional Intelligence, as first proposed by known psychologist Daniel Goldman.  EQ involves essential life skills such as compassion, empathy, and a solid understanding of relationships. A healthy sense of social awareness, therefore, supports the development of these life skills because one is able to relate to people and situations better as they are able to employ compassion and empathy.

Educators and other proponents of SEL or social and emotional learning believe that success in life relies heavily on emotional intelligence. It is Goldman’s argument that emotional intelligence can be taught systematically in school, and modeled in the home. Though schools may have varying curriculum designs for different ages of school children, the targeted core competencies are the same: social awareness, self-management, relating to others, and responsibility for one’s decisions.

As parents, we can take the cue from SEL approaches and model skills and behaviors necessary in developing social awareness among our children in the home.

The Benefits of Social Awareness to Children

For children to grow up as adults with full control over their social and emotional skills, it is important to harness social awareness early in life. This can be achieved through the help of both SEL approaches integrated into traditional school-based education and encouraging this type of learning at home.

As adults, we may often overlook the life skills we’ve developed over the years. As these are skills we practice every day, we may be neglecting their real value to our lives and to how we relate with others. If a child is left to grow up having to learn life skills from what he witnesses in others, without guidance, and without structure, learning may be incomplete or, worse, it may even be impaired.

Empathy and the ability to understand others, particularly those from different backgrounds, are the most essential life skills needed in developing social awareness. Cultivating these skills in our children while they are young will help them significantly in learning how to cope with and relate to different situations and people, besides their own and themselves.

Social awareness benefits our children by:

  • Improving their ability to form solid friendships and relationships
  • Learning how to be compassionate and empathetic in their interactions with others
  • Allowing for a better understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses
  • Enhancing their social and emotional wellness

Skills that parents can teach children to develop their social awareness include:

  • Recognizing social cues to understand the feelings of others
  • Visualizing different perspectives
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Recognizing other people’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Gratitude
  • Relationship skills

3 Ways to Improve Children’s Social Awareness

mother and daughter talking

Challenging Your Child’s Understanding of Situations

Allow your child to watch you having conversations or in your interactions with different people. After each interaction, discuss with your child what they observed related to words, tone, body language, or facial expressions and how these elements are exchanged between the individuals interacting.

This is a good exercise to demonstrate to your child that when you treat another person with respect, it is rewarded in kind. Process their observations and emotions with them to make sure they are reading the different situations accurately.

Encouraging Participation in Group Activities

Enroll your child in age-appropriate classes that involve interaction with others. Non-competitive exercises are ideal, such as art, dancing, or yoga. Find activities that will develop their self-confidence independently while in interaction with others. In other words, it is their own skill that is being built upon without the pressure of gaining approval from others.

Movement activities for self-development done with others will help develop their social awareness through interaction and spatial awareness while being given the opportunity to self-manage stress or anxiety and understand more about strengths and opportunity areas.

Model Behavior and Skills

When you are able to demonstrate that compassion and empathy are reciprocated or rewarded, children are likely to follow your example. Modeling behaviors that show respect for others, not just to elders but everyone, will instill solid foundations for a child’s learning about empathy and human dignity.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is, in fact, founded on the protection of human dignity. Likewise, human dignity is the primary principle around which social catholic teaching by organizations such as CAPP-USA centers.  While a child may not be mature enough to grasp legal codes for human rights or social catholic teachings, inculcating the value of respect is never too soon to start on.

The home and schools’ effective emphasis on life skills related to social awareness will not only secure the foundations for emotional intelligence. It can equip a child substantially as he navigates through adolescence and young adulthood with the ability to regulate their emotions, manage stress, and relate and interact well with others.

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