Emotional Development


Emotional development for your babies starts as soon as they are born, and they will go through many stages in this process. Initially their emotional experience is limited to reacting to painful, pleasurable, or surprising stimuli. These responses are mainly governed by an old, primitive part of the brain and it takes considerably longer for the more sophisticated parts of the brain to develop which will allow your child to feel things in the way an adult does. What is an emotion? An emotion can be described as physiological response to the environment . Emotions can be split into two groups: primary and secondary. • Primary emotions: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, joy, interest, and sadness • Secondary emotions: embarrassed, shame, jealousy, pride, and guilt (these are also termed self-conscious emotions) When your was baby is born, it was plunged into a new world of light and sound, movement and touch, taste, and smell. All this information is exciting and stimulating for them, and they must learn not to be overwhelmed by all the stimulation. Before being able to appreciate their fascinating surroundings, your baby’s very first challenge is to learn how to stay calm whilst taking in all the new sensory information and stimuli. Slowly they will learn to focus on things and will use these to calm themselves. These comforting things include mummy’s face, daddy’s voice, or the touch of a soft blanket. They are also born with a few strategies for regulating emotions such as sucking, gazing, averting their eyes, crossing their legs, or bringing their arms to the midline. By using these methods, they gradually learn to balance their growing awareness of sensations with the ability to remain calm. Eventually they will be able to monitor and adjust their emotions in response to their environment. Learning this balance is fundamental to a baby’s development. It is the most basic building block of emotional, social, and intellectual health and without it we can’t learn, we can’t develop relationships with others, and we can’t survive in our highly stimulating world. Hardwiring of the emotional brain mostly takes place during the first three years. It will have been nurtured through millions of daily interactions, primarily with parents, as every glance, every smile, every tickle, every question builds a child’s sense of who they are. As a parent you will have a huge impact on your baby’s emotional development. Your baby will learn about emotional attainment and regulation from how you respond to their needs. Also by seeing how you respond to your environment will provide your baby with a social and emotional map they can copy. Attachment to parents is the model that infants and toddlers use to understand all other relationships. How can Parents help? Infants

Most importantly respond promptly and sensitively to your baby’s emotional cues by getting to know baby and learning their cues and: • Giving lots of cuddles and positive touch • Eye contact, smiles, over exaggerated facial expressions • Play with them • Lots of talking and singing and reading to them • Start introducing a few routines (bedtimes etc) • Introduce fun games like peek-a-boo • Respond promptly and sensitively to your baby’s emotions • Describe emotional experiences to them • Provide opportunities to interact with other babies, children and adults Toddlers

Continue with infant activities plus: • Provide a secure base from which they can explore their environment • Build upon some of the routines you have tried to establish • Continue to talk through emotions they may be feeling Juniors

Continue with infant and toddler activities plus: • Offer lots of opportunities to play with other children • Set clear limits and boundaries and be consistent • Give them the chance to practice new independent skills • Offer your child choices (red t-shirt or blue t-shirt etc) to show you value their opinions • Acknowledge fears • Music play is a safe way for children to express emotions • Lots of cuddles, fun, and laughter Importance of play and emotions Children can act out their emotions through play, which means play can be a form of therapy for even very young children. This means that your baby can learn to express themselves through play and, therefore, learn about their emotions. • Make music with your baby. This is a fun outlet for their creativity. • Tactile play. Use touch when you play with your baby. Tactile songs are good for this activity. • Try messy play. The This can help your children get used to the way different things make her feel. For example, your baby can slap mud around happily, or slosh water angrily. • Puppets. Help them understand their emotions and situations by acting them out with puppets. www.babycollege.co.za

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