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A Parent's Guide to Social Emotional Awareness

Have you ever had an argument with your child over picking up their toys? You may have asked them once or twice, or even ten times to just pick them up. You start to feel very frustrated and tiresome and you begin to notice that as you grow more angry, so does your child. 

Emotions play a pivotal role in shaping our behaviors, decisions, and interactions. Especially in the realm of parenting, the nuanced dance of understanding, expressing, and regulating emotions becomes essential. Emotional awareness is a topic gaining traction in the domains of psychology and child development. It has shown to be the key for nurturing harmonious parent-child relationships. Positive parenting, in particular, emphasizes this emotional connection, fostering an environment of mutual respect, validation, and understanding.

What is Emotional Awareness?

Emotional awareness is the ability to recognize, understand, and appropriately respond to emotions in ourselves and others. It involves:

  1. Self-Recognition: Before understanding a child’s irrational behavior, you have to deal with your own reactions. Why are you feeling frustrated? Was it about their behavior, or your own expectations?
  2. Empathy: Recognizing that beneath the surface-level reactions are deeper needs and desires. There might be a reason, beyond the obvious, that's making your child upset.
  3. Response: Formulating reactions based on the emotion’s root cause, rather than the surface behavior.

Understanding Emotional Awareness in Parenting

Whether it's a toddler's tantrum, a preteen's moody demeanor, or a teenager's outburst, understanding the emotional drivers behind these behaviors is the first step towards fostering emotional awareness.

Defining Social Emotional Awareness

At its core, this concept includes recognizing, understanding, and managing our emotions while also being perceptive of the feelings of others. It merges self-awareness with social understanding.

The Crucial Role in Parenting

By being aware to social emotional cues, parents can tailor their reactions to suit their child's emotional needs, ensuring a more compassionate and effective response.

Painting a Picture: Social Emotional Awareness Examples in Parenting

Active Listening – Beyond Just Hearing

Taking a moment to fully engage when a child expresses a concern, resisting the urge to jump to solutions or diminish their feelings.

Echoing back their feelings, for instance, "It sounds like you felt left out when your friends played without you.

Broader Impacts of Emotional Awareness

Interpersonal Relationships

Emotions aren't restricted to parent-child interactions. Friendships, even at a young age, come with their highs and lows. Recognizing and addressing these emotional dynamics can provide important lessons for children.

Digital Interactions

In an increasingly online world, children's emotions are also influenced by their digital interactions. A loss in an online game or a comment from a friend can carry emotional weight. Addressing these feelings can build resilience and better digital navigation skills.

Building Emotional Awareness in Everyday Parenting

As parents, we often find ourselves in a constant hustle, juggling between roles, responsibilities, and the relentless demands of modern life. In this whirlwind, we might occasionally miss out on the subtle emotional cues our children throw our way. Just as a gardener meticulously tends to each plant, understanding its unique needs and growth patterns, we, too, need to nurture our child's emotional landscape. Building emotional awareness isn’t a monumental task reserved for special days but can be integrated into our everyday routines. Here's how:

Our children often mirror our emotions and behaviors. If we react to situations with anxiety or frustration, there's a good chance they might mimic that. It's essential to pause and reflect. Daily reflection and mindfulness practices can help in recognizing and managing personal emotions. By demonstrating emotional self-awareness, we set a positive example for our children, encouraging them to do the same.

If you’re looking for ways to connect with your child, try our Make It Stick Social Emotional Calendar - providing 365 ideas, tools, and activities to help your child cope and care.

Facilitate Open Conversations

After a long day at school, your child might have a treasure trove of experiences and emotions to share. But, "How was your day?" might only get a simple "Good" or "Okay." Instead, dig deeper with open-ended questions. Asking, "What made you happy today?" or "Was there something that bothered you?" can open the floodgates of communication. Such questions encourage children to think and articulate their feelings, laying the foundation for effective emotional expression.

Stories and Analogies

Children live in a world where imagination is everything. Stories, with their vivid characters and detailed emotions, offer a great way to discuss complex feelings. Reading books that address emotions or even sharing personal childhood experiences can resonate deeply with them. When they relate to a character's joy, sorrow, or confusion, it becomes an indirect way of understanding their own feelings. Additionally, analogies can be powerful tools. Drawing parallels between their experiences and relatable scenarios can provide clarity and a sense of validation.

Incorporating these practices into daily routines can gradually weave the fabric of emotional awareness in our homes. It's about transforming ordinary moments into opportunities for connection, understanding, and growth.

The Role of Social Emotional Awareness

Apart from individual emotions, understanding social dynamics is vital. Social emotional awareness helps children navigate group settings, enhancing their interpersonal skills and empathy.

For instance, discussing scenarios like feeling left out during recess or resolving misunderstandings with friends can provide practical insights. Using real-life examples can make these lessons more relatable and effective. The My Feelings Posterprovides diverse images to help your child identify and understand emotions.

The Rewards of Embracing Emotional Awareness

The journey to fostering emotional awareness in parenting is ongoing. However, the benefits are many:

  • Trust Building: Children feel understood, fostering a deeper trust and open communication channel.
  • Improved Behavior: By addressing the root causes of emotional outbursts or behaviors, one can often find more sustainable solutions.
  • Deeper Connection: Emotional discussions pave the way for shared experiences, memories, and a bond that transcends the typical parent-child dynamic.

Parenting is undoubtedly complex. However, integrating emotional awareness can simplify many challenges. By seeking to understand the emotions driving our children's behaviors, we not only address immediate concerns but also equip them with the tools to navigate their emotional worlds. It’s an investment with lifelong returns, for both the child and the parent.

If you are interested in learning more about how to facilitate social emotional awareness with your children, sign up for one of our parenting courses today.

My Feelings Poster

My Feelings Poster
My Feelings Poster

My Feelings Poster


My Feelings and Emotions Poster comprises images of thirty-two various emotional expressions. This poster with 32 feeling faces can help child...

larger photo of blog article author Suzanne Tucker

Suzanne Tucker is the founder of Generation Mindful, a physical therapist, a parent educator of 27+ years, and a mom of 4 (including twins!). Suzanne has been studying the art and the science of connection-based parenting for decades. Her life's work is to help families around the world find more joy and connection in their relationships.

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