Stages of Emotional Development in Children


The stages of development in children are debated in different school of psychology, but parents and caregivers will all agree that children go through very defined stages of physical development at around the same time. Emotionally, the same thing happens to children and at a certain age you can expect to see developments in their personality and attitudes.

The very first of the stages of emotional development in children comes when they are a baby (around six to eight months) and experience significant distress when parted from their primary caregiver. This is otherwise known as separation anxiety and is characterized by crying, feeling insecure and upset when their caregiver is absent. Often the only thing that will calm them is the return of this person and separation anxiety usually stops at about 12 months. Do note, however, that it’s not unusual for children to develop separation anxiety at one year and carry this on for another.

Separation anxiety is actually seen as a good thing by most parents, as it shows their baby has bonded with them and certainly feels safe when they are together. Parents of children who wander off will recognize their own separation anxiety when they go missing for a minute and can empathize with their child. At around age 2, however, there is one of the stages of emotional development in children which is not so pleasant for parents. This is known as the ‘terrible toes’ and it marks a huge awakening in the child’s understanding of the world. Prior to the terrible twos children assume that everyone around them has the same thoughts and the same desires as them. When something gets taken away or they are told ‘no’ they previously didn’t understand, but now they realize that some people disagree with them, and this has to be tested. Terrible twos may not be so bad for some parents, whose children understand that people have different thoughts to them quickly, but others may put up a fight if they find it particularly distressing that their parents want something different from themselves and can’t for the life of them understand why.

At the same time as the terrible twos another more exciting of the stages of emotional development in children might be occurring. Children of this age often learn to talk, or at least understand what people say to them. When this happens their understanding of the world and interaction with people often changes dramatically. At this stage they may be easier to console and compromise with, but also more challenging as they ask ‘why’ to everything. Try to enjoy this stage as you watch them play and vocalize their incredibly imaginative and magical worlds.

These are just three of the very first stages of emotional development in children that you as a parent will experience. It’s a great idea to understand what they are going through and how their new understanding of the world might be confusing, so that you an guide them through and help them learn as much as possible.

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