A child’s development includes both physical and emotional stages. Parents frequently concentrate on the stages of the child’s physical development and ignore the emotional development. A little understanding and insight into the emotional development will help make sense of the child’s behaviour.
The following are guidelines for the emotional developmental stages of children:
0 to 6 Months
- Baby is adjusting to life outside the womb so crying is normal.
- Needs to feel calm, safe and have a routine.
- Shows a limited variety of feelings and expresses emotions through smiles, frowns, body movements, gurgling and cooing.
- Comforted by being fed and cuddled.
- Recognises familiar people and likes to smile at them
- Begins to show displeasure or fear around unknown people.
- Calmed when picked up and on hearing familiar voice.
6 to 12 Months
- Strong reaction to strangers and clings on to parents.
- Starts to resist when not happy to do something.
- Enjoys attention.
- May soothe himself/herself with familiar toy or thumb sucking.
- Emotional expressions like fear and sadness increase.
12 to 18 Months
- Begins to show negative emotions and may resist naps, refuse food and may have tantrums.
- Begins to understand taking turn games.
- Needs comfort and reassurance from parents.
- Afraid of being away from parents and may cry when they leave.
- Shows extreme behaviour like very aggressive or calm, helpful or stubborn.
- Gets angry when stopped from doing something.
- Temper tantrums are common and the child tends to cry, scream, kick, bite and can be rough with other children too.
- Needs to be told what is right or wrong.
- Easily distracted.
- Has a little concept of sharing and usually plays alone alongside other children.
- Likes routine and changes are upsetting.
- Shows feeling of sympathy, pity, pride and aware of praise and smile.
- The child is becoming more independent.
- Afraid of noises like thunder.
- Fear of strangers decreasing.
Three Yearslay is the main activity and is important in the development of identity and confidence.
- Play is the main activity and is important in the development of identity and confidence.
- Demonstrates feelings of happiness and contentment.
- Continues to be self-centred
- Develops a vivid imagination and has imaginary friends.
- Shows ability to bargain but not reason.
- Distraction technique still works.
- Less frustrated and angry.
- May have fear of dark and separation pangs.
Once the parents understand and acknowledge how their child might be feeling at a particular time they will be able to help him/her to work through what has been experienced. Parents should keep in mind that each child develops in his/her own unique way depending on personality and at different rates.
However, if the parents notice the following things by the time the baby is 8 to 9 months old, they may consult the doctor:
- If the child is not smiling or responding to sounds
- If the child avoids close contact or cuddling.
- If the child is inconsolable at night or cannot self soothe.
- If the child is not interested in games like peek-a-boo.
If the child is around 12 months old and the parents notice the following, they should consult the doctor immediately:
- The child does not show interest in other children his/her age.
- Does not respond the way the child is expected to do.
- Has extreme difficulty waiting for something he/she wants.
- Very rigid about routine, food items, clothing etc.
- Has limited or fleeting eye contact with others.
- Does not imitate any actions.
- Does not respond when his/her name is called.
- Does not follow when something is being told
- Does not take an interest in simple games.