As your child transitions from toddlerhood to the preschooler years, you’ll notice, among other things, important changes in their self-awareness skills. In other words, they will be able to say and understand the meaning of their first name, age, and sex, as well as having a better understanding of their likes and dislikes. Your child’s self-awareness skills are what, in the future, will allow them to understand that they are a whole, unique, and independent person with thoughts and feelings. This set of skills is essential for developing and maintaining relationships, and to lead a healthy and happy inner life.
According to 1991’s seminal paper on how children develop the concept of selfhood, published by Harvard’s professor Jerome Kagan in the journal Developmental Review, self-awareness refers to a person’s realization that they are a distinct human being, with body, mind, and actions that are separate from other people’s. Approaching 4 years of age, children work on developing their autonomy, as stated in the stages of psychosocial development proposed by Erick Erickson during the 1950’s.
Here are some tips on how you can help your kid develop self-awareness skills:
- Notice, accept, and help your child process all the array of human emotions they might be feeling.
- Help them notice the relationships between what they might be feeling and what they are doing.
- Model empathy, self-expression, and communication.
- Name feelings. Feelings are complex and, as preschoolers are just beginning to grasp what they mean, they need your help to name emotions. Being sad because it’s raining and you can’t go to the park is much easier to assimilate than just feeling something unpleasant and having no words to understand what’s going on.