The Gist of It
- As a parent you shouldn’t only focus on your child’s physical needs, but emotional ones as well.
- Developing your child’s emotional health can pave the way to success later in life.
- Start nurturing your child’s emotional development from a young age with the tips below.
You’re all prepared for your first baby. Diapers, baby clothes, baby bed, and ear plugs for the neighbours, all settled. You’ve even gone to childbirth classes along with the hubby and bought tons of baby CDs and soft toys to stimulate your baby’s mind, in fact, you’ve been singing lullabies even though she / he’s still squirming inside of you.
But have you really got everything down pat?
While all your baby’s physical and cognitive needs are well-looked after, we often forget one important aspect of a child’s life — their emotional development. It’s an easy area to overlook, after all, if your child is fed and clothed, what else will he want for?
The Importance of Emotional Health
Emotional wellness paves the path for better social development in your child’s future and helps them adjust to the world better.
Teaching them to identify their feelings can help them in several aspects in life, from solving conflicts, having better self-esteem to developing empathy towards others, so it’s important to start nurturing their emotional development from a young age.
How to Start Nurturing Emotional Development
Once your child has arrived, here are some key aspects you should always give focus to:
1. Be purposeful in guiding your child
Focus intentionally on his emotional needs. These needs are just as important as his cognitive, physical and spiritual needs.
2. Build a strong bond by spending quality time with your child
Experts agree that parents who interact regularly with their children — beginning in infancy — develop stronger bonds.
3. Stay emotionally in tune when you connect with your child
Attempt to understand what he / she is feeling. When she is happy, be happy for her; when she is sad, cry with her.
4. You are a role model
Your children will mimic the way you handle emotions and the way you relate to others. By managing your own emotions in a positive way, your children will learn to do so as well.
5. Teach children how to handle negative emotions
Doing this well does not come naturally. Children need to be taught how to handle defeat, deal with conflict or be angry in a healthy way. Children who are taught these skills early are better able to handle negative feelings as adults.
Emotional Development Begins at Birth
While such aims are for the long-term, do be aware that infants do not have the full repertoire of emotions at birth. Their various emotions emerge in the following order:
- At birth – infants experience only simple emotional states such as distress, contentment and interest
- 2 – 4 months – evidence of happiness appears as seen in a baby’s “social smile”
- 4 – 6 months – basic emotions emerge, including fear, excitement, anger, disgust, surprise, joy and sadness
- 6 – 18 months – basic emotions continue to develop and are expressed in broader ways by the child
- 18 to 24 months – self-conscious emotions develop, such as guilt, embarrassment and pride
Foster Stronger Bonds
According to child development expert Mary Ainsworth, parents who are strongly bonded to their children share certain characteristics. When their children are infants, these parents tend to:
- respond more often and more quickly to their infant’s cries
- they would guess correctly what their child needs when he cries
- respond in a positive way to their child
- spend more time interacting with their child
How to Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
The key to helping your child feel understood is to acknowledge his feelings. Unfortunately, as Asians we tend to keep everything pent up inside, rather than express them. Here’s how you can help your child:
1. Label the feeling
For younger children, especially, the simpler label you offer the better. Use words like mad, happy, sad and scared. For older children, more specific words help them to pinpoint the exact emotion: disappointed, worried and embarrassed.
2. State the reason for the feeling
Make your best guess as to why your child feels as he does. For example, say: “It looks like you’re mad because Mom said you can’t have dessert today.”
3. Don’t judge your child
Who needs to know that it is okay to express emotion. However, at times you may need to teach your child how to express his feelings in ways that are healthy and not hurtful to others.
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