By Taylor Levesque, M.A.
At MGH Aspire, we encourage our participants to develop self-awareness through self-reflection. Strengths and challenges, interests and preferences, likes and dislikes are just a few of the many components that make up one’s self-identity. However, as participants, caregivers, and clinicians alike can agree, building a healthy self-identity isn’t always so easy. Here are some strategies to use when supporting your child to develop a healthy relationship with self-reflection.
Model Your Own Self-Awareness.
By talking about and demonstrating your own self-reflection, caregivers can guide the way their children embrace a self-identity. Talk about your annual work review during your drive to school. Share your new interest in learning to play the ukulele during a family dinner. Think out loud and talk about your food preferences: “Hmmm, I’m trying to decide if I like the spiciness of this new dinner recipe.”
Instead of: Thinking about your feelings regarding an upcoming new experience…
Try: Sharing out loud, “I’m feeling excited to fly cross country for the first time, but I’m also feeling a little nervous because I don’t exactly know what to expect.”
Create Frequent Self-Reflection Routines.
Think creatively about different ways to naturally build self-reflection into your child’s daily schedule. After school car ride checklist? Dinner table conversation? Getting ready for bed game? The more familiar self-reflection seems, the more positive and comfortable your child will be.
Instead of: Bringing up a bad exam grade out of the blue…
Try: Starting a daily or weekly check-in around how classes are going.
Tailor Your Self-Reflection Style.
Just as all people are different, so, too, are their self-reflection styles. For some kids, using concrete numbers and limited choice options are necessary. For others, having a more open-ended conversation is easier. Adjust your self-reflection style to meet your child’s comfort level and needs.
Instead of: “Tell me about day.”
Try: “How was your day, from 1 to 10.”
Balance Praise with Honest Feedback.
Feedback is a gift when presented both positively as praise AND constructively as support. Providing both views will help your child appreciate a complete and honest picture of who they really are. Provide positive feedback frequently (“I saw you study hard to ace that science test—you really deserve the B+!”) and provide neutral constructive feedback just as frequently (“I noticed it seemed harder for you to study for science this time around because of your afterschool gaming routine. How did you feel about that?”).
Instead of: “You’re still on the computer? You’re not using the strategy we decided on!”
Try: “We chatted about computer time 10 minutes ago, but I can see you’re still on the computer. Let’s check-in.”
Don’t Make Feedback Personal.
Providing feedback that aims to change an individual or their personality can feel like a personal attack, often too overwhelming for healthy self-reflection. However, feedback focusing on a discrete behavior, situation, or experience can be perceived as generic, not personal, therefore making it easier to reflect on and change for the future.
Instead of: “You’re rigid when it comes to trying new things.”
Try: “I’ve noticed it can feel challenging for you to try new things.”