Emotional development is a complex and sometimes difficult task that begins in infancy and continues into adulthood. A few of the first emotions that can be recognised in babies are anger, joy, fear and sadness.
As they grow up, they start to develop a sense of self and more complex emotions emerge such as shame, guilt, pride and empathy, but also many others.
Emotions are important because they are children’s responses to a wide variety of things that they experience every day. Additionally, emotions have a very important impact on their behaviour, attitude and on how they learn to enjoy life.
Parents also have a huge influence on their children’s emotions, so they should be very careful and responsible. Parents are so important because they are the first and the main persons who respond to their children’s emotions, but parents also provide models of how to manage feelings and how to behave. Fortunately, by talking with their children, they can help them manage their emotions, but school staff also has a huge role.
Experiencing various emotions has several components:
- physical responses such as hormone levels, breathing and heart rate
- feelings that children begin to recognize and learn to name them
- judgements and thoughts that are associated with feelings
- action signals such as fight or escape
When children express their emotions, both through behaviour and words, are influenced by several things such as:
- values related to inappropriate and appropriate ways of expressing emotions that are learned from their parents, teachers and carers
- children’s temperaments
- emotional behaviours learned through observation and experience
- how well children’s emotions are met
- various kinds of stress that both children and their family are under
There are also other reasons why children express their emotions and feelings so differently. Every child is unique, so his response to various things, problems and experiences is very different. Variation in children’s emotional response can also be influenced by cultural values, severe and chronic disorders, as well as social circumstances and children’s temperaments.
There are children that are encouraged by their families to express a wide range of emotions, but there are also other families that encourage their children not to display certain emotions, so children express their emotions based on what is regarded by them as normal within their family and culture.
Parents have an important role for helping their children learn and accept feelings and to understand the connection between behaviour and feelings. Parents, carers and school staff have to:
- understand children’s emotions and feelings
- help children recognize and understand their own emotions
- set limits on inappropriate expression of emotions
- be a role model
All these steps are very important as children are developing and they will soon become adults. To conclude, parents, relatives, carers and school staff have to be aware of these problems and be very careful how they behave.