Every child goes through both physical and emotional development. Understanding a child’s emotion is very important in a child’s life. However, many guardians focus more on their children’s physical development than their emotional aspects. In normal practice, it is important for parents and guardians to give more attention to a child’s emotions throughout his/her growth so as to understand the child’s behavior better. Understanding a child’s emotional behavior would give caregivers an opportunity to know how the child feels when a certain action is taken or when in a particular situation occurs. If a caregiver understand a child’s emotions, then it would be easy for him/her to help the child deal with life experiences. Moreover, children reveal different behaviors at different stages of their development. This calls for the need for caregivers to understand such variation in emotions so as to deal with those behaviors effectively.
Children at ages zero to one: A lot of development occurs in children during this period and therefore extra care needs to be taken when dealing with children. At this stage children are very delicate because they are still coping with life outside the womb. Therefore, the child’s normal response and reaction is crying. Such a child can cry when hungry, which is named as “hungry cry” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2010). For instance, children at ages 0-1 cry when feeling cold or hot so as to attract attention from those attending to them. The child may also cry when angry and this normally happens from three to four months of development. Children between 0 to 1 years can express their emotions when they feel tired, hurt by crying and smiling (2-3 months).
It has also been reported that some infants have practically showed their emotion through smiling a few minutes after birth. This phase of smile is known as reflex smile which occurs as a result of the development of central nervous system. From two months children smile at anyone they see or hear, this phase is known as social smiling. Finally, selective social smiling is the final phase of a child’s smile. At this phase, a child smiles at people and sounds they are familiar with. This phase reflects a child’s social behavior towards other people. At the month of four, a child graduates to another stage of laughing which functions as liberation from anxiety. In other words, the older the child gets the more he/she communicates with laughter. At this age children can also react by frowning, and at this point they will need to be comforted by being cuddled and even fed. In addition, when they do not recognize people around them, they may even begin to fear them and respond by crying only to be calm when they are picked up by familiar people. Children’s reaction to unfamiliar people may also be shown by clinging to their parents or calming with well-known toys. Toys may not necessarily be the only soothing components to children, since some other children develop soothing behaviors such as sucking their thumbs. Resistance is another emotional development to children at the age of 0-1 years especially when they are not pleased with something.
At ages 1-5 years: At this stage, a child’s emotional development is fundamental. Often children are very anxious and curious about what is happening in the environment, can be egocentric and want everything for themselves. This behavior is mostly shown at the beginning of one year and three months, where children are strongly attached to their mothers. At two to three years, children are eager to see the effects of being disobedient, especially when they do what they are forbidden from doing. In addition, children aged between 1-5 years would display certain aggression, stubbornness, and tantrums when in high temper. They can bite, kick, scream and also cry as a result of anger. On the other hand, the child can be very calm, sympathize proud and may want to offer some help when watching someone working. Children are easily distracted because they have a short duration of attention. Children at the age of 1-5 years are afraid of strange and loud noises such as, trains and thunder. At three years, children are very playful; an aspect that forms a fundamental role in their self development and also builds a sense of happiness. Such children can also negotiate without reasoning and at time they fantasize of the friends they do not have through self-conversation especially when playing alone or with their toys.
At the age of four: children’s social life is improved whereby they start making friends, but they may have one favorite friend. They also enjoy playing with other children. Their past and future senses are developed to an extent that they can remember and connect the events that happened days back although not all. Similarly, at the age of 4, children shall have developed strong confidence and self assurance in everything they do. However, some children are afraid of darkness, and can scream or cry when lights abruptly go off. They also have fear of some other things especially when they hear of the negative effects associated to them. For instance, when such children are told something harmful concerning cows, they might probably develop fear of cows. 4 years old children will find comfort from adults whenever they feel sick, hurt or even tired after playing. A four year old child is very emotional and expresses such emotions in various ways. For example, they alarmingly demonstrate their anger by banging doors or stamping their feet on the floor, or even uttering some negative words about the person they feel anger towards. At times they might initiate conversations and make friends with unfamiliar people around them without being frustrated. Children who are 4 years are attached, kind, protective, and often feel insecure when their parents are away from them.
There is more stability and independence on emotional development of children whenever they are approaching six to ten years old. At this stage, a child develops strong thinking capacity begin to understand things clearly, able to talk about how they feel, and think about something. They have a lot of self confidence, are very possessive, and sometimes articulate their feelings by being sulky when provoked. At ages six to ten years, children still have a short span of concentration and therefore cannot do a lot of work. However, 7-8 years old children begin to understand a few things such as reading, writing and get familiar with money. Self-esteem becomes very critical for 7-8 years old children because of the value attached to the sense of belonging and worth. This is shown when children interact with people and also start going to school. At ten years old, the children start to have a long span of attention and therefore, they can understand their emotions and relate well. At the same time, a child who is ten years can develop is a very strong sense of distinguishing right from wrong. They can also be secretive about some things and are easily influenced by peer groups.
From the age of eleven years, a child’s emotions begin to be unique. Such children are aware of almost everything that is happening around them. The changes in a child’s motional behavior keep on varying between independent and preteen children. He/she becomes self-conscious and therefore need a lot of attention from their parents or caretakers. In a nut shell, from the age of 11 years, children are not bothered by fears they had when they were young, and are enthusiastic, and are passionate about a lot of things where their likes and dislikes are clearly exposed. Eventually, when children become teenagers, their emotional development takes a drastic change, this is known as the adolescence stage. This stage begins at the age of thirteen to eighteen years old during which children learn from mistakes and also learn to solve problems in a more mature way. They are more dependent to their parents although they still want to be independent and they often appreciate approval from their adults. Adolescent’s emotions vary widelyand as they grow older they want life of freedom and responsibilities just like adults.
In summary, throughout a child’s emotional development, the parents and caregivers should be very attentive at every development stage. This is to particularly enable parents and caregivers to know when children have a problem when growing and therefore endeavor to offer appropriate support early enough. Emotional development is a fundamental component of a child’s development because it determines both physical and psychological growth in children. Owing to this, parents should be their children’s best friend so as to guidance by introducing rules to the children to instill discipline, especially those at teenager stage. It also advisable for and guardians to be flexible and be able to monitor their children’s behavior and listen to them so as to promote appropriate emotional development.