This is a development process which begins right from infancy and continues into adulthood. Even as babies, we see certain emotions such as anger, joy, sadness and fear being expressed. As they begin to develop a sense of self, more complex emotions like surprise, shyness, embarrassment, shame, guilt, pride and empathy begin to show up.
Children start to learn to identify emotions and try to understand why they happen and how to manage them properly. As they develop, their reactions to certain things change and so do their emotional responses. At a young age, their physical reactions to emotions include experiencing butterflies in their stomach and heart racing. Gradually as they begin to grow, they experience feelings. At this time, their emotions are influenced also by their thinking and they become aware of their own feelings and are able to understand those of other people. For children, there are several components of emotions such as: physical responses (heart rate and breathing), feelings that they recognise and learn to name, thoughts and judgements associated with feelings, action signals (a desire to escape or fight).
There are several things which affect how children show their emotions whether through words or behaviour. These include:
- The values and beliefs about appropriate and inappropriate ways of expressing emotions. This is what they might have learnt from their parents and guardians.
- How the emotional
needs of children are met.
- The emotional behaviour they have learned through observation or experience.
- The level of stress the family or child undergoes.
You should also know that the emotional development of a child continues until they reach their teenage years. Emotional development allows your children to understand and control their emotions.
Understand that every child is differentThe way children express and manage their emotions are different. These may be as a result of experiences that have affected children or their families. These may include trauma, a difficult social circumstance or illness. It may also be as a result of the family's values and the different temperaments of the child.
Children are able to express their emotions based on the norms within their family and culture. In some families, children are encouraged to express emotions while in some other families; they are not encouraged to display emotions. This influences the children's ability to regulate their emotions. Some children find it difficult to regulate their emotions than others and this could be caused by an emotional temperament. Some other children feel emotions very intensely and easily while others are emotionally reactive and find it difficult to calm down.
Stages of Emotional DevelopmentWhen children develop emotionally, it helps them behave in the appropriate way
0-6 months: At this stage, they respond to touch and enjoy socializing and smiles at the parents. They also suck their fingers and know when they are touched privately.
6 months - 1 year: They express emotions such as anger, joy, sadness and fear. Children at this age can distinguish between strangers and family members. They also respond to words or gestures. From 9 months to 1 year, the child can hold a cup while drinking and imitates simple actions.
1-2 years: Children at this age explore a lot during this period and can now recognize themselves in the mirror, imitates the actions of adults and experience negative emotions like anger.
2-3 years: At this stage, children become creative and are aware whether they are boy or girl. They may begin to say no to your requests and enjoys the company of other kids. They also try to put on and take off their clothes by themselves.
3-4 years: Children are now able to perform some physical activity to improve their self confidence levels. At this stage, they are very independent. They easily share their toys with their siblings and follow directions.
4-6 years: At this stage, they
have started knowing the difference between good and bad behaviour. They also create friendships with other children and follow instructions.
7-12 years: At this stage, the children follow and obey rules, take initiatives to do some activities. They are also given new responsibilities.
12-20 years: At this stage, children begin to experience some conflicts about their gender and the opposite gender. They begin to know more about themselves, become self-conscious and seek true intimacy.
Influences on the Emotions of children- Sense of self
When children are confident and successful in school and home, they tend to develop a sense of self. This in turn affects their emotional development positively.
- By understanding their strengths
Children that have been able to know where their strength lie easily develop the emotional strength to manage any disappointment or failure they may experience.
- Understanding Parents
Parents and guardians can help the emotional development of their children by supporting, encouraging and praising their efforts. The emotional stability of the parents is also a major influence.
As children develop in their mind, they become more emotionally matured.
- Loving environment
Children who grow up in a loving home will also learn to express their love to others. The way their parents and relatives express emotions affects them also.
- Good health
Children who are sound in health can control their emotions better while those that are weak show irritable and unstable emotions.
- Level of Intelligence
Children who are intelligent are emotionally stable while those with low intelligence are not stable.
- Societal Influence
If the environment where the children are is unstable there is a tendency that they will become emotionally unstable. If the people in that environment are stable, the child will also be stable.
How Parents can helpParents and guardians can help in the emotional development of their children in several ways:
- Always be responsive to your children.
- Do not shout or yell at your children.
- Correct your children appropriately.
- Teach them to learn how to control their emotions.
- Motivate your children to talk.
- Teach your children how to express themselves.
- Create time for them to play with other children.
- Make rules for your children and explain to them the consequences of their actions.