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Posts Tagged ‘child emotional development’

Emotional Development in Preschoolers

As parents, we can wonder ‘how healthy is my child’s imaginary friend’ or ‘why does he insist he is a doctor at the dinner table’? The article below from healthychildren.org helps explain why children do these things and if they are developmentally appropriate.

Your three-year-old’s vivid fantasy life will help her explore and come to terms with a wide range of emotions, from love and dependency to anger, protest, and fear. She’ll not only take on various identities herself, but also she’ll often assign living qualities and emotions to inanimate objects, such as a tree, a clock, a truck, or the moon. Ask her why the moon comes out at night, for example, and she might reply, “To say hello to me.”

From time to time, expect your preschooler to introduce you to one of her imaginary friends. Some children have a single make-believe companion for as long as six months; some change pretend playmates every day, while still others never have one at all or prefer imaginary animals instead. Don’t be concerned that these phantom friends may signal loneliness or emotional upset; they’re actually a very creative way for your child to sample different activities, lines of conversation, behavior, and emotions.

You’ll also notice that, throughout the day, your preschooler will move back and forth freely between fantasy and reality. At times she may become so involved in her make-believe world that she can’t tell where it ends and reality begins. Her play experience may even spill over into real life. One night she’ll come to the dinner table convinced she’s Cinderella; another day she may come to you sobbing after hearing a ghost story that she believes is true.

While it’s important to reassure your child when she’s frightened or upset by an imaginary incident, be careful not to belittle or make fun of her. This stage in emotional development is normal and necessary and should not be discouraged. Above all, never joke with her about “locking her up if she doesn’t eat her dinner” or “leaving her behind if she doesn’t hurry up.” She’s liable to believe you and feel terrified the rest of the day—or longer.

From time to time, try to join your child in her fantasy play. By doing so, you can help her find new ways to express her emotions and even work through some problems. For example, you might suggest “sending her doll to school” to see how she feels about going to preschool. Don’t insist on participating in these fantasies, however. Part of the joy of fantasy for her is being able to control these imaginary dramas, so if you plant an idea for make- believe, stand back and let her make of it what she will. If she then asks you to play a part, keep your performance low- key. Let the world of pretend be the one place where she runs the show.

Back in real life; let your preschooler know that you’re proud of her new independence and creativity. Talk with her, listen to what she says, and show her that her opinions matter. Give her choices whenever possible—in the foods she eats, the clothes she wears, and the games you play together. Doing this will give her a sense of importance and help her learn to make decisions. Keep her options simple, however. When you go to a restaurant, for example, narrow her choices down to two or three items. Otherwise she may be overwhelmed and unable to decide. (A trip to an ice- cream store or frozen yogurt shop that sells several flavors can be agonizing if you don’t limit her choices.)

What’s the best approach? Despite what we’ve already said, one of the best ways to nurture her independence is to maintain fairly firm control over all parts of her life, while at the same time giving her some freedom. Let her know that you’re still in charge and that you don’t expect her to make the big decisions. When her friend is daring her to climb a tree, and she’s afraid, it will be comforting to have you say no, so that she doesn’t have to admit her fears. As she conquers many of her early anxieties and becomes more responsible in making her own decisions, you’ll naturally give her more control. In the meantime, it’s important that she feels safe and secure.

Just as it was when he was three, your four-year-old’s fantasy life will remain very active. However, he’s now learning to distinguish between reality and make-believe, and he’ll be able to move back and forth between the two without confusing them as much.

As games of pretend become more advanced, don’t be surprised if children experiment with make-believe games involving some form of violence. War games, dragon-slaying, and even games like tag all fall into this category. Some parents forbid their children to play with store-bought toy guns, only to find them cutting, pasting, and creating cardboard guns or simply pointing a finger and shouting “bang, bang.” Parents shouldn’t panic over these activities. This is no evidence that these children are “violent.” A child has no idea what it is to kill or die. For him, toy guns are an innocent and entertaining way to be competitive and boost his self-esteem.

If you want a gauge of your child’s developing self-confidence, listen to the way he talks to adults. Instead of hanging back, as he may have done at two or three, he now probably is friendly, talkative, and curious. He also is likely to be especially sensitive to the feelings of others—adults and children alike—and to enjoy making people happy. When he sees they’re hurt or sad, he’ll show sympathy and concern. This probably will come out as a desire to hug or “kiss the hurt,” because this is what he most wants when he’s in pain or unhappy.

This is a fun time for children but can also be overwhelming at times. Using the above tips can help you both navigate these changes a bit easier. 

Article source: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)

For more information on The Goddard School in Franklin (Cool Springs) visit our website and our Facebook page

10 Tips for Raising a Compassionate Toddler

Recent research shows that infants and toddlers are far more empathetic than we once thought.  While they have short fuses, and don’t cope well with sharing, they are capable of being compassionate.  With this in mind, here are ten tips I use in the classroom to help infants and toddlers become pro-social that families can also try at home.

  1.  Be respectful, patient, and loving to your infants and toddlers and everyone else. Infants imitate what they see.  Model saying “please” and “thank you”, touching gently, using your words, using a calm voice, cleaning up your messes, helping others, and sharing your things:

“Thank you for the Cheerio, would you like some of my raisins?”

  1.  Media is powerful!  Read books about feelings with positive social interactions and discuss them.  If your child watches television, watch too, and talk about the situations and emotions that happen in the shows, especially if the actions are antisocial.

“Caillou said that Philip could not use his ball – how did that make Philip feel?  Do you think taking turns might make Philip feel better?” 

  1.  When things are upsetting your toddler, you can engage your inner child.  Doll or puppet play can help your child explore feelings and perspectives.

Puppet, “I don’t want to take a bath!”  You to puppet, “You sound mad – you don’t like baths!  I wonder what things could make bath-time fun?”

  1.  When people are upset, model compassion – talk about the problem and offer help.

“That boy fell off the climber, let’s go see if he’s ok!  His daddy picked him up and the boy stopped crying.  Let’s see if they need a Band-aid…”

  1.  Model touching gently on pets and guide toddlers who are rough to touch everyone gently, leave toys in others’ hands and to walk around people rather than pushing.

“Stop!  The puppy is crying because you pulled his fur – touch him like this, that’s gentle.  Let me show you how.  Yes!  That’s gentle! He likes that better”

  1.  Point out when harm has been done and suggest ways to make things better.  Point out the facial cues that let you know what is happening.

“You were mad, but when you bit him, it hurt.  He’s sad.  See his tears?  Let’s help him get some ice.  Next time if he grabs your toy, say, “That’s mine.””

  1.  When conflict breaks out, stay calm and support your child’s feelings. Offer solutions and stay close.  It helps to use the same solutions each time, for example, if the conflict involves one child grabbing another child’s toy, get close and hold the toy in question, state the problem, comment on the children’s emotions, offer solutions, find one that is mutually acceptable, and restate the solution.
  2.  Point out kindness to others, “He liked it when you gave him the flower, see his smile?”  That was kind of him to hand you the ball.” Point out social mistakes,“He just pushed you out of the way.  I think he doesn’t have the words yet to tell you that he wants to play over by the balls.  He should have walked around you.” Point out your own mistakes, too, “I made a mistake, I bumped her with your stroller – I’m sorry!”
  3. Involve your child in home tasks like cooking and re-gifting.   Talk about the teamwork involved in helping the house run smoothly or the way others will feel when they get the gift.

“This salad will taste so good, thank you for tearing up the lettuce!” “I bet the new baby will like that bunny – it’s so nice of you to give away the toys you are too big to use.”

  1. Stay close and guide your child as she navigates the complex world of feelings. Babies and toddlers will have strong feelings, make mistakes, feel possessive, seek autonomy, and struggle to control their impulses. Expect them to try and to make mistakes.  Respect that all people may need time to get calm and composed before they are willing to talk about upsetting things.

“You got so mad you threw the cup.  Next time you can hand it to me.”

Keep in mind that not everyone learns social skills at the same pace.  The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning suggests that when a child can’t dance, swim, etc. we teach them, but when a child can’t behave, we punish.  Committing to teaching social skills to children that don’t “get it,” creates a better community for everyone.

By: Julia Luckenbill

For more information on this topic see: http://www.naeyc.org/yc/files/yc/file/201407/YC0714_Rocking_and_Rolling.pdf

For more information on The Goddard School in Franklin (Cool Springs) visit our website and our Facebook page.