How to Support Your Child Who is Discovering Who They Are

5 min to read
A Learning Coach and his student are sitting and having a conversation on a balcony.

Before your child is even born, you start wondering what their personalities will be like. Will they be cautious or adventurous? Will they play well with others? Will they be happy?  

Those personality traits are part of your child’s identity – the unique things that make them uniquely … them. From having a love of reading to a strong dislike of camping, a child’s personality will start to emerge early, with kids typically starting to become self-aware around age 2.

Self–awareness is understanding ourselves – knowing and accepting our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and emotions.

But while a two-year-old may start displaying self-awareness by mimicking their facial expressions in a mirror or throwing a bowl of food they hate across the room, their journey to being a confidently self-aware person can take time – and support from their parents, caregivers, and teachers.

Why is Self-awareness Important for Kids?

Kids who have self-awareness and are tuned into their thoughts and feelings tend to be more self-confident, empathetic, and communicative. They have good relationships with friends and family. They are also strong decision makers and problem solvers and can learn from their mistakes. They know what motivates them to find success.   

Integrating self-concept activities for kids and self-discovery for kids into a child’s educational journey can have a positive impact on their overall well-being, including their ability to form healthy relationships, perform well in school, and have good mental health.

A mother and daughter learning how to build self-awareness for kids.

How to Build Self-awareness and Self-Acceptance for Kids

Growing up is hard! In addition to academics, children are navigating all their emotions and new social settings. They often don’t know how to react or respond when confronted with different situations, which can leave them feeling frustrated and angry. 

Parents want to raise happy, well-adjusted children, and a big part of that is encouraging self-discovery for kids and helping them explore who they are. Through self-exploration, children will learn more about their true selves, which can lead to more easily accepting their true self and develop a better understanding of others. With acceptance comes confidence, inner peace, strong relationships, and an overall stable and joyful life.  

Here are five self-awareness activities for kids to help them explore their identities. 

1. Keep a Journal.

Self-discovery is a personal journey. While parents and caregivers can guide and support kids, they must play an active role in learning who they truly are. A good way to do that is through journaling. 

Writing down thoughts and feelings in a journal can bring clarity about how they are really feeling – and uncover the meaning behind those feelings. Journals are also judgement-free zones; kids don’t have to worry about showing their true selves in a journal, and writing about who they are will lead to acceptance of who they are. When they accept who they are, they can be free to share their true selves with others. 

Sitting down and writing can be hard for kids, though. Here are a few prompts to get them started. 

  • What are you grateful for?  

  • Describe your happiest day or memory. 

  • What do you like about yourself?

  • Who is someone you look up to? What qualities do they have that you admire? 

  • What is something you are really good at? What is something you find to be challenging?

2. Read Biographies and Memoirs

Learning other people’s stories can help children and teens build their own story. Biographies and memoirs can showcase how successful people made a difference by using their strengths to overcome challenges. Encourage your children to picture themselves in those same situations and wonder how they would respond. 

Parents can help by asking them questions about what they learned from ready about the person's story. Discussions could include asking their child what they admire about the person they just read about, or if they would have done anything differently if they found themselves in similar situations. 

3. Check in on Their Emotions

It’s easy to get stuck in the rut of just asking someone how their day was – what did they do, what did they learn, etc. Extend those questions to ask your child how they are feeling at any given moment. These emotion check-ins give students the opportunity to reflect on how they are feeling. Probe a little deeper to learn why they are feeling a certain way. Putting a name to how they are feeling can help them effectively manage and cope with their emotions, which is a key element of self-awareness. 

4. Play “Would You Rather”

Children can learn a lot about themselves when asked to choose between two things, such as:

  • Would you rather spend summer vacation at the beach or at a campground? 

  • Would you rather go to a play or to a baseball game? 

  • Would you rather work outside or at a desk with a computer?  

Asking "would you rather" questions can help kids think through what they truly like to do and where they really want to be. 

5. Expose Them to Different Things

A big part of self-discovery for kids and teens is experiencing new things. The world is a big, beautiful place full of people of different backgrounds. Spend some time taking your kids to different places like museums, cultural celebrations, or different community events. This may include getting outside of your own comfort zone, but the shared experience will reap new benefits. Your child will learn what they truly like to do. They will also learn how to handle themselves in situations where they feel uncertain or uncomfortable.  

A pair hiking as a way to build self-awareness and confidence in online school students.

Supporting Your Child’s Identity

As children become more self-aware, they live their life as their true selves. For parents, it’s important to remember that their child’s true self may be different than what they had expected. Some parents may want their child to excel at a certain sport, but their child may realize they don't enjoy playing it at all. Some may expect their child to go to college, but their child may rather take a year off after high school to travel the world.  

Parents and caregivers have so much influence over how their child chooses to accept their true selves, so it’s important to remember that they need to live their best lives, which may be different from what their parents imagined for them. Love them for who they are. Give them compliments. Encourage them to find their voice and to use it. Be their champion as they learn and grow, even if they take a different path than the one you would have liked them to choose.  

Find additional tools and resources to help with all of the pillars of social and emotional learning on the Connections Academy Resource Hub.  

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