7 Ways to Help Develop Awareness

Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

  1. The starting point is undoubtedly the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness will help your young person develop a wide range of skills, including one of the greatest importance — awareness. Awareness is important because it will allow them to become actively aware of their own emotions. And the moment they become aware of their emotions, they can learn to relate to them in a more positive and constructive manner.
  2. They will benefit from learning to check in with themselves and tuning in to how they feel in various situations throughout their day. Do they feel excited or hopeful about a new project, or do they feel sad and frustrated over a disagreement with a friend? Your preteen or teen can learn to tune in to the emotions they experience during their day. This will strengthen their ability to be aware of what goes on inside and outside of them.
  3. Once they’ve become aware of an emotion, the goal for them is to create a habit of simply noticing it. It’s important that they learn that it’s all about noticing and observing, not judging.
    • Mindfulness will help your young person practice being a mere observer, capable of withholding judgment and interpretations such as “this is good” or “this is bad.”
    • The next step is to practice naming the emotion.
    • Finally, it’s about noticing that each emotion passes and makes room for the next experience. This will teach your preteen or teen to go with the flow of things and to appreciate the inner peace that comes with this form of acceptance.
  4. It is important that your young person learn to share their feelings with the people they care most about and who are closest to them. This will help them learn to put their feelings into words. The ability to express their emotions verbally is a very important skill that will allow your preteen or teen to find the support they need when they need it the most.
  5. It is also valuable for your young person to practice noticing emotions in others and how their emotions make your preteen or teen feel. This will train them to become a more careful observer and will develop their empathy, which is a beautiful and very valuable skill.
  6. It’s also essential that your young person learn to be kind to themselves when their emotions are intense or negative (e.g., feeling sad, angry, frustrated, or fearful). They can also take good care of themselves by finding an activity that helps them feel better in the moment. That could mean talking to a good friend they know will support them, going for a run or a walk in nature if possible, lying down with their eyes closed and listening to soothing music, or watching an uplifting movie. This list is not exhaustive. They should find their own calming and appeasing activity that will remind them of how important it is to be kind to themselves.
  7. Your young person should be encouraged to discover the benefits of self-regulation strategies including: deep breathing, relaxing, and most importantly, learning to meditate.

However, if despite all your young person’s efforts and willingness, they get to a point when they feel totally overwhelmed by their emotions, then it is time for them to get help. They should be encouraged to talk to a trusted adult such as you or a family member and ask for support. They can also choose to talk to their guidance counselor, their school psychologist, or a social worker who will listen to them, support them, and help them through this difficult time. It’s essential that they realize that they should never hesitate to ask for help. They must always be reminded that reaching out for help is the greatest gift of self-compassion they can give themselves, a gift that they fully deserve.