Self-Awareness – So Easy a 6-Year Old Can Do It

Many of us may struggle with the concept of Self-Awareness, that is, being aware of the feelings we are having at any one time.  This is a basic tool of all emotional intelligence.  Our ability to understand and relate to others is predicated on our own ability to determine what we are feeling.

Last year I wrote about the use of the SASHET acronym for determining what we are feeling.  SASHET stands for Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, and Tender.  It is a technique taught by my mentor Rich Blue and first introduced by David E. Carlson in his book, Counseling and Self-Esteem.

Unfortunately, many of us never really learned to be in touch with our feelings.  No one ever spent the time to help us understand what we were feeling at any one point.  Worse, many of us were told to ignore, push down, or avoid feelings.  For some of us, the message from our parents was that feelings were not acceptable.

So I was very impressed recently when I learned that my 6-year old son Jack is learning about self-awareness at his elementary school.  That’s right, my son is learning about emotional intelligence at school.  The school has introduced a curriculum called PATHs this year.  PATHS stands for Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies.  It has been introduced at various elementary schools around the country.  When I talk about it with Jack or with my 10-year old daughter Krista, they describe it as being very similar to the emotional intelligence literature.


The materials that come home from school are terrific as well; simple and easy to understand.  As an example, this picture at left is representative of one of the ones I found in a recent take-home exercise.  It is a simple metaphor that kids can quickly grasp.

This particular takehome exercise also showed pictures of kids with different facial expressions showing ranges of emotions.  The point was to show that we can have ranges of emotions.  Here are some of the ranges discussed in the paper:

uneasy   –    terrified
down     –    depressed
grouchy  –    furious

I think it is great that we are teaching our kids these skills and tools at this age.  I wish I would have received some training like this as a child.  Unfortunately, most of the training I had on emotions came from my parents and that was less than adequate.  I have to wonder though how many parents and adults would benefit from these materials.  It seems like we need to have a PATHS curriculum for adults.

Kids can learn a lot at school.  However, we need to keep in mind that they are also learning about emotions from their parents.  If the kids find that their parents are not very good role models, like mine, the training they receive at school may be overshadowed by the example the parents set.  On the other hand, if the children’s parents and other role models are exercising emotional intelligence, the PATHs teaching at school will be supported and reinforced at home.