Teaching Self-Awareness and Empathy

Hiding in Our Own Shell

egg-1280733__340 (1)We all hide in our shell when we are a little scared. When things seem safe and comfortable, we poke our head out and look for reasons to come out to share ourselves with the world. Children do this too, and most often with each other. When feelings are hurt or needs are not met they pop right back inside their shells. It may take some time to rebuild trust, but even the most resilient children want to come out of their shells and enjoy what a friendship offers.


 Causing Others To Hide In Their Shell

egg-1280733__340Because children are egocentric and empathy is emerging, they often do not recognize how their own behaviors influence others. They can be blind to connecting how their negative actions, such as, tattle telling, whining, being bossy, lying, or not sharing may cause others to feel uncomfortable or disinterested in being their friend. Consequently, the discomfort they provoke may cause their peers to hide back in their shell, preventing a friendship from emerging.

Pro-Social Behaviors Crack Open Our Shells


When children have an understanding of how their behaviors both positively and negatively influence others’ reactions to them, their ability to maintain a friendship is more likely to sustain.

A fun way of teaching self-awareness and empathy in young children is using the analogy “hiding in your shell.” When a negative behavior is observed, such as name calling, let the child know that this behavior causes you to feel sad and hide away in your shell. Explain your goal is to come out and help them get their needs met, but you need positive choices to help crack open your shell. So, when you hear a child compliment a friend make a point to say, “you just made us happy and come more out of our shells.”

Crack My EggBehavior Chart

Using a behavior chart that notes one’s progress with pro-social behaviors helps improve both self-awareness and empathy.

Download the FREE, “Help Me Come Out of My Shell” chart to use in your individual sessions, social skills groups or classroom.

When positive behavior is noted, place a marker on top of the next emerging chick.  Once the chart is filled up, provide a reward for their behaviors that helped others “come out of their shell. ” In social skills groups, have children provide the marker to their peers when friendship behaviors are noted.