Social And Emotional Development In Children

Social and emotional development of children needs to be monitored along with their physical growth. All three aspects are of equal importance in ensuring the all-round development of your child. Physical growth is largely dependent on genetics and the child’s physical structure and there is only so much that we control here. However, the social and emotional development of a child forms the basic foundation of your child’s life as an adult and can be moulded to a great extent in the early stages.

What is Social Development?

A child’s social development is gauged by the manner in which he or she interacts with people around them. It relates to how your child develops and nurtures relationships, friendships, and also the way in which they deal with conflicts that might arise with peers. As a child develops socially, they learn to respond to various influences surrounding them and these, in turn, have an impact on the way their relationships shape up.

Why is it Important for Kids?

It is an integral part of your child’s overall development process and has a significant impact on other aspects of their growth. Only when a child has normal social interactions with peers and adults around them on a regular basis will they be able to build up their self-esteem not to forget improving language skills and boost learning skills.

What is Emotional Development?

Learning to identify emotions, understanding why they happen, and learning to manage them is what emotional development is all about. This is a process that starts when your child is an infant and lasts till they are an adult. Emotions in little children start off as physical reactions to various situations such as a racing heart when scared or fluttering in the tummy when nervous and so on. As they grow, they start to recognize these feelings and by the time they are adults, they begin to understand feelings of others also.

Why is it Important for Kids?

The emotional well-being of children, as well as adults, can be ensured only when they develop the skills necessary to manage their range of emotions. As children grow, the situations that provoke emotional responses will also vary as will the strategies required to manage these. Appropriate emotional development will help them face challenges in life such as being successful in school and in relationships.

What Factors Influence Social and Emotional Development during Early Childhood?

A child with spectacles standing against a blackboard full of art and mathematical formulas

Parents and caregivers are the primary influences on young children. Apart from these, there are quite a few other factors that have an impact on your child’s social and emotional development in the early years such as:

  • Hereditary Factors – There are bound to be a certain amount of similarities between your social and emotional development and that of your child.
  • Conditioning – If your child sees you being expressive when it comes to displaying affection through hugs and kisses, then it is likely that the baby will also follow suit.
  • Good Health – Children who are healthy are seen to be able to better manage their emotions whereas those who are weak tend to be irritable and display unstable emotions.
  • Family Equations – If parents have a steady relationship and display feelings in a mature way, children tend to imbibe this. Displaying violence, over pampering the child, and not showing any affectionate can make the child undisciplined, obstinate, or introverted and submissive.
  • Intelligence – Children who are intelligent are found to be more emotionally stable than others.
  • Societal Influences – If the parents’ income and standing in society is stable, children tend to be more confident than those who are not financially well-off.
  • Values and Beliefs – Things like what might be considered appropriate or inappropriate behaviour by parents, teachers, or caregivers.
  • Individual Temperament – Each child is different and this will to some extent play a decisive role in their social and emotional development.
  • Religion and Culture – The dictates of the religion followed by your family and the cultural atmosphere where your child is brought up will play a significant role in their overall development.
  • Media Influence – The kind of books your child reads, the type of television shows they watch or the movies they see will all influence the way they think and act.

Stages of Emotional & Social Development from Birth to 12 Years

As your child grows older, their mental growth will result in emotional maturity. According to psychologists, it is the maturity level which determines your child’s emotions. The greatest development and growth occurs in your child during the ages from birth to when they first start school. It is these first skills that will form the foundation of your child’s social and emotional development. There are different milestones to gage the social and emotional development of children from birth to the age of 12. Here is why they assume importance:

  • It gives them a sense of self and the life that they live making the transition into adulthood easier later on.
  • Helps develop social skills that let your child function in a society and interact with members of the community in an appropriate manner.
  • Developing emotional skills such as recognition, expression, and controlling feelings is a learning process that is quite educating.
  • Through appropriate social and emotional development, your child will be able to realize his or her ambitions and thus shape their future.
  • Looking at the milestones set for various phases or ages, you can assess your child’s progress and get them help if required.

Emotional Development From 0 – 6 Months 

Babies are like a sponge and learn stuff right from the minute they are born with their home and immediate family being their first subjects. Your baby can:

  • Be comforted at the sight of a familiar adult from the family
  • Indicate happiness by smiling
  • Respond with joy to interactions with family members
  • Look at his or hands and suck the fingers
  • Realize that he is an individual and different from others
  • Likes being soothed
  • Responds to your touch
  • Enjoy a game of peek-a-boo
  • Reacts with excitement or joy when you make sounds or faces
  • Turns to look when you call out his or her name
  • Initiates social interaction

Emotional Development From 6 Months – 1 Year

As baby grows older, he or she starts to show their love or dislike for objects and persons in their own way. Some things you might notice are:

  • Their emotional range expands
  • Can differentiate between familiar people and strangers
  • Ability to imitate simple actions
  • Shows frustration or anger if you take away a toy
  • Can hold a cup and drink from it
  • Attempts to feed himself
  • Might display anxiety when away from you or the primary caregiver
  • Prefers to be with people he knows

Emotional Development From 1 – 2 Years

Self-awareness increases and your child realises that they can make things happen. Other changes you might notice are that your child:

  • Becomes more assertive and even gives directions on what he wants done
  • Displays pride and pleasure on achievements
  • Can identify with his or her reflection in the mirror
  • Takes the lead during play time
  • Imitates elders
  • Is more into independent play
  • Likes to help you with what you are doing
  • Puts away playthings when done
  • More prone to displays of anger and frustration

Emotional Development From 2 – 3 Years

Your child is now a toddler and his confidence is sure to have increased significantly. Children at this age tend to be creative and love exploring. Some other milestones at this age are:

  • Likely to improve on their self-help skills
  • Understand the notions of good, bad, etc as they apply to themselves
  • Develop awareness of feelings they have and that of others
  • Identify themselves as a girl or boy
  • Attempting to dress and undress on their own
  • Indicates preferences in food, dress, games, and toys
  • Likes the company of other children and wants to play with them
  • Might have mood swings regularly
  • Learns to say ‘no’ when asked to do something

Emotional Development From 3 – 4 Years

Your toddler becomes increasingly independent during this time and this also boosts his or her self-confidence levels significantly. In this phase, your child is likely to be able to:

  • Follow instructions
  • Do quite a few tasks independently such as washing hands or dressing oneself
  • Share their toys with other children
  • Come up with game ideas on their own
  • Role play and pretend play becomes a favourite
  • Use words to express anger or frustration rather than venting in a physical manner such as hitting or throwing stuff around.
  • Knows his limits and will not hesitate to seek help from you or others if required.

Emotional Development From 4 – 6 Years

This is an age when your child’s social and emotional skills will scale new heights as they start spending more time with children of their age. There is an increase in physical activity and thus motor skills and reasoning skills are honed better. Your child is also likely to:

  • Understand the difference between good and bad behaviour
  • Make new friends
  • Strive to be more like their friends and aims to please them
  • Become a bully or fall victim to bullying
  • Come up with comparisons between himself and others
  • Interested in competitive games or activities
  • Aim to be the leader of the group of friends
  • Follows instructions correctly and willingly cooperates with others
  • Develops an interest in creative drawing
  • Attempts to understand the feelings of others

Emotional Development From 7 – 12 Years

This is an age where your child spends a great part of the day in school and with friends. They pick up quite a few new skills and at the same time are likely to have emotional outbursts on a regular basis. Milestones are:

  • Developing the ability to stick to the rules
  • Blending in with others of the same age group
  • Involved in games that are well-structured and have rules
  • Doesn’t hesitate to take the initiative in taking up new activities
  • Ability to create teams
  • A growing interest in various academic subjects like mathematics, science, etc.
  • Disciplined self-learning
  • Willing to take on new responsibilities and feels proud to be chosen for this

Enhancing Social and Emotional Skills in Kids

Each child is unique and is likely to have a different timeline for meeting various emotional and social milestones. Here are some ways in which you can help enhance your child’s skills without putting pressure on them:

  • Act as a guide by helping your child turn difficulties into opportunities for learning.
  • Be generous with praise for a task well done and ensure that you provide accurate feedback every time.
  • Do not shy away from talking about your feelings and encourage your child to open up too.
  • Make yourself a role model worth emulating by managing your emotions and apologizing for times when you lose control.
  • Do not shout or yell at people, or become physically violent as this can have a significant adverse impact on your child’s mind.
  • Set a limit on the inappropriate expression of emotions that your child is likely to display. Make it clear that it is alright to have various emotions and feelings but aggressive or unsafe behaviour or actions will not be tolerated.
  • Use every possible opportunity to talk to your children about emotions and teach them how to manage these.
  • Learn to identify the emotions going through your child by familiarizing yourself with their body language and behaviour closely.
  • Create opportunities for your child to interact with other children and in various settings. You can do this by taking your child to public places like the park and library.
  • If you have a child who gets very emotional or jealous, try talking to your child about why this happens.
  • You can also teach your child how they can prevent emotional outbreaks in public by various techniques such as breathing or counting to ten, etc.
  • Give your child the freedom to make decisions in simple daily matters such as the outfit they want to wear or the game they wish to play, etc.
  • Enabling children by giving them power over some aspects of their life helps build their self-confidence.
  • At the same time, it is essential to have some rules in place and consequences you child will have to bear when these are broken.

Points to Keep in Mind

The guidance you provide for emotional and social development during childhood should be in accordance to your child’s age and level of development. Starting off with social and emotional developmental activities for toddlers can ensure that you turn your child into a patient adult who is skilled at problem-solving and believes in cooperation.

  • You should act in coordination with your child’s teachers and any other caregivers towards this goal. This kind of collaboration can benefit your child to a large extent.
  • By staying tuned to your child’s behaviour and needs, you can identify if there is any kind of late childhood social development that your child is experiencing. If they lack any specific social or emotional skills, you can help them gain these as they grow.
  • Helping your child understand and manage their internal emotions is what emotional development is all about. External elements such as interactions with family, friends, and peers makes up the social aspect.
  • Social and emotional development in early childhood starts off with simple things like sharing toys or making new friends and continues up to the end of the teenage years.
  • Always emphasize the need for empathy and boost your child’s emotional intelligence by putting them in someone else’s shoes.
  • Stick to routines and some type of structure at home to help your child feel secure.

By learning to appreciate his or her own strengths and efforts and also those of others, your child becomes emotionally resilient and can better manage the disappointments and frustrations that they will encounter.

A father reading a book to his daughter

The social and emotional development of a child is a long drawn out process which is also quite complicated. Being a parent puts you in a position to steer your child towards healthy relationships and positive interactions with people around them. This is essential in helping your child to develop good self-esteem along with strong communication skills. Let your child know that you love and support them no matter what and this is what will boost their morale like nothing else. And if at any point you suspect that your child is not able to develop as they should at a particular age, do not hesitate to seek the opinion of a qualified medical professional. Getting necessary help at the right time can make a world of difference to your child as an adult.

Disclaimer: This information is just a guide and not a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.