Tips for Building Self-Awareness Skills for Middle Schoolers

When trying to build self-awareness in middle schoolers, the first step is to identify and develop their strengths.

Middle school is a challenging time in the academic career of any child. It situates them on the cusp of younger, primary-aged children and the more mature senior students. 

More than nascent critical thinking and analytical skills, middle school is also when teachers begin to inculcate self-awareness in their pupils. But since middle-school-aged children have demonstrably different brains to their adult mentors, teaching them anything can feel daunting. 

How then to build self-awareness in risk-seeking, pleasure-loving, and authority-averse middle school students? 

Play to Their Strengths 

When trying to build self-awareness in middle schoolers, the first step is to identify and develop their strengths. 

Often middle school students haven’t fully realized their natural strengths, and building those up can build self-awareness and simultaneously boost confidence. To help assess their strengths, it’s helpful to identify what individual middle schoolers are passionate about. 

Since the teenage brain naturally gravitates to pleasure over the mundane, capitalizing on the content they find engaging is an excellent way to assess their strengths and capabilities and instill a love of learning. 

Conversely, the well-developed amygdala in middle schoolers makes them more susceptible to anxiety than more fully-developed adult brains. Accordingly, another way to build self-awareness in middle schoolers is to emphasize the role weaknesses play in our development. 

Building self-awareness is largely about emotional maturity, and accepting that there can be grace in failure is an integral part of that. Moreover, by destigmatizing failure, you reduce nascent anxiety present in the middle-schooler brain and encourage them to take risks that may further develop their interests. 

Teach the Value of Honest Self-Assessment 

Another facet of building self-awareness in middle schoolers is to help them understand who they are. On paper, this looks nebulous, but it’s another part of the strengths and weaknesses exploration. 

As you strive to build self-awareness in middle schoolers through self-assessment, explore and discuss not only what they can and can’t do but also:

  • How they receive criticism
  • How they accept compliments
  • How they give and receive feedback 

Not only does candid discussion help build self-awareness in middle-schoolers, but it acts as a reminder that the sum of their parts comprises more than their accomplishments. 

At the same time, it further builds self-awareness by helping middle schoolers understand that the instinct to self-deprecateƒauthority in the face of a compliment isn’t necessary. It is okay to excel in something and acknowledge that they excel. 

And, as they become more comfortable receiving compliments, middle schoolers are more likely to reciprocate and compliment others as their discomfort processing spontaneous praise lessens. 

This is an integral part of building not only self-awareness but emotional maturity in middle schoolers. 

Keep an Emotions Journal 

Another way to build self-awareness in middle schoolers is through the use of an emotions journal. A significant part of building self-awareness stems from successfully navigating complex things like:

  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Assessing and controlling emotions
  • Managing stress 

None of these is easy individualistically. Together it’s the emotional and metaphorical equivalent of being thrown into the deep end and rapidly learning to swim. 

The value of a journal is that it gives middle-schoolers a safe place to process those emotions while simultaneously building self-awareness. As the writing process helps them categorize the emotions they experience, middle-schoolers become better equipped to navigate and process those emotions maturely. 

When introducing the emotions journal, emphasize the value of ‘stream of conscious’ writing. Critical thinking has its place, but not here. 

The virtue of a stream of conscious approach is that it effectively shuts down the writer’s internal critic. Your middle-schoolers will write without filter or anxiety, and that enables them to tap into the emotional heart of their thoughts and feelings, building self-awareness in the process. 

Use SMART Goals to Encourage Growth 

As you build self-awareness in middle schoolers, encourage them to write SMART goals

A SMART goal is a goal that is:

  • Specific 
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic 
  • Tangible

Goals are an excellent way to build self-awareness in middle schoolers because they give them something to strive for. And the specificity required by SMART goals, in particular, forces them to chart their self-growth in a demonstrable, provable way that allows them to see their success play out. 


Building self-awareness in middle schoolers can be a daunting process. They’re at an age that is difficult to quantify as they shift between childhood and young adulthood. 

As you aim to build self-awareness in your middle school child, remember to:

  • Identify and emphasize strengths
  • Encourage passions and interests
  • Make space for failures and weaknesses
  • Encourage honest self-assessment

Additionally, an emotions journal can be a valuable tool that creates a safe space for your middle schooler to process thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And as your middle schooler grows and processes those emotions, encourage further self-awareness by working together on SMART goals. 

These will help you and them chart their increasing self-awareness while also giving them something tangible to achieve. 

But it’s important to remember that you can’t build self-awareness in middle schoolers overnight. It’s a process exacerbated by their resistance to authority and their preference for instant results. 

Be prepared for your collaborative effort to build self-awareness to take time. And when you see progress, stop to celebrate it. 


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