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Nurturing Your Child’s Emotional Development: Infants and Toddlers

As parents, we learn about the benefits of regular doctor visits, immunizations, physical activity, and proper nutrition. We understand the need for stimulating toys and activities to promote brain development. However, we may overlook the importance of nurturing our children’s emotional development. Every child is unique. Some children are cheerful and adaptable while others are moody and easily distressed. Emotion and behavior are based on the child’s temperament and development stage. Keeping these truths in mind, utilize the tips below to guide your child into an emotionally healthy future.

Why is emotional development important?

  • Emotional wellness provides a sturdy foundation for future social development.
  • Developing emotional maturity is necessary for the extension of empathy towards others.
  • It enables your child to resolve conflicts without physical aggression.
  • Teaching your children to regulate and recognize their own emotions increases self-awareness and self-esteem.
  • Emotionally mature children perform better in school.
  • Children who do not mature emotionally are at risk for peer rejection, unhealthy attachments, mental health issues, and criminal behaviors.

What can parents do to promote healthy emotional development?

  • Develop a strong bond with your newborn. Respond often and quickly to your baby’s needs. Take time to interact with your infant engaging in eye contact and speaking or singing softly.
  • Intently observe your growing infant. Only when you are able to recognize your child’s emotions and behaviors can you begin to help him understand them.
  • Become familiar with typical age appropriate emotional development, PAL has a great deal of information which can help you. Look on the PAL website (www.pal.ua.edu) or contact a Parent Resource Specialist using our toll-free phone line (1-866-962-3030).
  • Tantrums are common during the toddler years. These outbursts of emotion are normal but nonetheless stressful for parents. When your child has calmed down use the language to help him identify what he might have been feeling. “It looks like you were mad because Mommy said you couldn’t have the candy.” Teaching him to label his emotions helps him to understand himself and others.
  • Don’t scold your child for strong emotions. Your child needs to know that it is okay to express his emotions. However, you will need to teach him proper ways to express his feelings without harm to himself or others. Children who are taught these skills early are better able to handle negative feelings as adults.
  • Read stories to your child about feelings. Ask questions about people you encounter such as, “Do you think she is happy or sad?” or “Why do you think she is crying?”
  • Model healthy emotional behaviors. Your child is always watching and learning from your example. When you manage your emotions in a positive way, your child will do the same.

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