Why Raising Socially Aware Kids Matters

Raising children who feel good about who they are, love all different kinds of people and respect different worldviews is still not mainstream. The good news is that parenting is our greatest social activism because we can influence our children to be more socially aware and compassionate. We can expose them to different environments, cultures, and people, give them opportunities to learn in collaborative settings, and help them find opportunities to serve others. These things will help our children develop the soft skills that they need to be more successful in life and ultimately transform the culture of our society. Here are five specific reasons why being socially aware matters.

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1. Kids who are socially aware will develop and display greater emotional intelligence

A child who is trained to be socially aware can empathize with the perspectives of others, listen empathically and display vulnerability. These are the skills that comprise emotional intelligence. According to Salovey and Mayer (1990), emotional intelligence is a “set of skills that contribute to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself and others, the effective regulation of emotion, and the use of feelings to motivate, plan, and achieve in one’s life.” Research suggests that emotional intelligence may be a greater predictor of success than IQ, so these skills are important to the growth and development of your children. Children who can imagine what others are going through will be better able to perceive, use, understand and manage emotions, which will ultimately serve them in learning and achieving their goals.

2. Kids who are socially aware will be better prepared to be leaders

Being socially aware means that you understand how to react to different social scenarios, and you can adapt your interactions to achieve the best results in any situation.  A child who develops the sophistication to read people and situations will be able to gain friends, influence people and motivate and inspire others. According to renowned executive coach, Maren Perry, it is great to have a strong understanding of your skills, values and emotions and to be able to focus and manage your emotions, “However, outstanding leaders balance this self-focused drive with a healthy amount of empathy and organizational awareness to leverage others to accomplish more than they can alone.”

3. Kids who are socially aware will have greater self-awareness and self-acceptance

According to the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, while self-awareness “involves looking inward to learn about yourself and understand yourself, social awareness is looking outward to learn about and appreciate others.” This is a reciprocal process of learning that involves understanding yourself and understanding others to greater and greater depths. A child will learn to appreciate their personality and individuality as they learn to authentically respect the experiences and perspectives of others. They will develop the ability to see themselves more clearly and evaluate themselves through introspection. Essentially, as a child learns to step outside of their own experience, they will learn how to be critically self-reflective as well.

4. Kids who are socially aware are more likely to practice gratitude

According to the Character Lab, gratitude is “appreciation of the benefits we receive from others and the desire to reciprocate.” To be grateful, you need to be aware of the benefits you receive from others and to understand how to reciprocate appropriately. Gratitude is a social and emotional learning skill that is built from in-person interactions, meaningful discussion, and reflection. 

Gratitude is associated with many positive outcomes including more satisfying social relationships and decreased distress and mental illness. There are four components to gratitude, as identified by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Raising Grateful Children Project:

  • Noticing: Did someone do something nice for you? Did someone give you something or take you somewhere fun?
  • Thinking: What are all the reasons you’re thankful for this? Why do you think someone did something nice for you? Does this mean something to you? 
  • Feeling: When you think about these special things or people, how do you feel?
  • Doing: What can you actively do to express your gratitude for this person, place or thing? 

Social awareness supports a grateful attitude in children because they learn to be humble and appreciative as they consider the perspectives of others.

5. Kids who are socially aware can persevere and find greater purpose in life

Finally, research has also shown that individuals with greater social awareness and higher emotional intelligence perform better on cognitive tasks and are better able to overcome frustration when faced with challenges performing these tasks. Perseverance comes from a growth mindset. A child who approaches learning with humility and open-mindedness is going to be more resilient in their processes. This combination of compassion and resilience will support children in finding and achieving greater purpose in their lives through strong relationships, flexibility of thought and persistence towards their goals.

—Mimi Nartey



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