The development of the social and emotional health of a child is essential to his appropriate behaviour, understanding of life and transition to adulthood. Social emotional development helps shape a child into what he will become later in life by teaching proper reactions to emotional matters. Social skills are all about a child’s ability to cooperate and play with others, paying attention to adults and teachers and making reasonable transitions from activity to activity. Emotional development is the process of learning how to understand and control emotions.
Healthy social and emotional development allows children to, Develop relationships, Master the ability to initiate, discover, play and learn, develop persistence and attention, Self-regulate their behaviour and Develop emotional range.
The emotional aspect of development relates to a child understanding and controlling their internal emotions while balancing external social elements of interacting with other people and family.
Social-emotional development includes the child’s experience, expression, and management of emotions and the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others. It includes both intra and inter personal relations. The core features of emotional development include the ability to identify and understand one’s own feelings, to accurately read and comprehend emotional states in others, to manage strong emotions and their expression in a constructive manner, to regulate one’s own behaviour, to develop empathy for others, and to establish and maintain relationships. Infants experience, express, and perceive emotions before they fully understand them. In learning to recognize, label, manage, and communicate their emotions and to perceive and attempt to understand the emotions of others, children build skills that connect them with family, peers, teachers, and the community. These growing capacities help young children to become competent in negotiating increasingly complex social interactions, to participate effectively in relationships and group activities, and to reap the benefits of social support crucial to healthy human development and functioning.
Healthy social-emotional development for infants and toddlers unfolds in an interpersonal context, namely that of positive ongoing relationships with familiar, nurturing adults. Young children are particularly attuned to social and emotional stimulation. Even newborn approves the stimuli like resembling faces and differentiating the mothers voice from others.
Responsive care giving supports infants in beginning to regulate their emotions and to develop a sense of predictability, safety, and responsiveness in their social environments. Early relationships are so important to developing infants. Brain research indicates that emotion and cognition are profoundly interrelated processes. Specifically, “recent cognitive neuroscience findings suggest that the neural mechanisms underlying emotion regulation may be the same as those underlying cognitive processes. Emotion and cognition work together, jointly informing the child’s impressions of situations and influencing behaviour. Most learning in the early years occurs in the context of emotional supports. Emotion and cognition contribute to attention processes, decision making, and learning. Furthermore, cognitive processes, such as decision making, are affected by emotion. Brain structures involved in the neural circuitry of cognition influence emotion and vice versa. Emotions and social behaviours affect the young child’s ability to persist in goal-oriented activity, to seek help when it is needed, and to participate in and benefit from relationships.
Interactions with Adults and Relationships with Adults are interrelated. They jointly give a picture of healthy social-emotional development that is based in a supportive social environment established by adults. Children develop the ability to both respond to adults and engage with them first through predictable interactions in close relationships with parents or other caring adults at home and outside the home. Children use and build upon the skills learned through close relationships to interact with less familiar adults in their lives. Close relationships with adults who provide consistent nurturance strengthen children’s capacity to learn and develop. Moreover, relationships with parents and other family members provide the key context for infants’ social-emotional development. These special relationships influence the infant’s emerging sense of self and understanding of others. Infants use relationships with adults in many ways: for reassurance that they are safe, for assistance in alleviating distress, for help with emotion regulation, and for social approval or encouragement. Establishing close relationships with adults is related to children’s emotional security, sense of self, and evolving understanding of the world around them.
In early infancy children interact with each other using simple behaviours such as looking at or touching another child. Infants’ social interactions with peers increase in complexity from engaging in repetitive or routine back-and-forth interactions with peers. Through interactions with peers, infants explore their interest in others and learn about social behaviour/social interaction. Interactions with peers provide the context for social learning and problem solving, including the experience of social exchanges, cooperation, turn-taking, and the demonstration of the beginning of empathy. Infants develop close relationships with children they know over a period of time, such as other children in the family child care setting or neighbourhood. Relationships with peers provide young children with the opportunity to develop strong social connections. Infants often show a preference for playing and being with friends, as compared with peers with whom they do not have a relationship.
Infants’ social-emotional development includes an emerging awareness of self and others. Infants demonstrate this foundation in a number of ways. For example, they can respond to their names, point to their body parts when asked, or name members of their families. Through an emerging understanding of other people in their social environment, children gain an understanding of their roles within their families and communities. They also become aware of their own preferences and characteristics and those of others.
Infants’ developing sense of self-efficacy includes an emerging understanding that they can make things happen and that they have particular abilities. Self-efficacy is related to a sense of competency, which has been identified as a basic human need. The development of children’s sense of self-efficacy may be seen in play or exploratory behaviours.
Early in infancy, children express their emotions through facial expressions, vocalizations, and body language. The later ability to use words to express emotions gives young children a valuable tool in gaining the assistance or social support of temperament may play a role in children’s expression of emotion.
Both the understanding and expression of emotion are influenced by culture. Cultural factors affect children’s growing understanding of the meaning of emotions, the developing knowledge of which situations lead to which emotional outcomes, and their learning about which emotions are appropriate to display in which situations. Young children’s expression of positive and negative emotions may play a significant role in their development of social relationships. Positive emotions appeal to social partners and seem to enable relationships to form, while problematic management or expression of negative emotions leads to difficulty in social relationships.
During the first three years of life, children begin to develop the capacity to experience the emotional or psychological state of another person. The concept of empathy reflects the social nature of emotion, as it links the feelings of two or more people. Since human life is relationship-based, one vitally important function of empathy over the life span is to strengthen social bonds. emotion regulation reflects the interrelationship of emotions, cognition and behaviour. Young children’s increasing understanding and skill in the use of language is of vital importance in their emotional development, opening new avenues for communicating about and regulating emotions.
Emotion regulation skills are important in part because they play a role in how well children are liked by peers and teachers and how socially competent they are perceived to be. Children’s ability to regulate their emotions appropriately can contribute to perceptions of their overall social skills as well as to the extent to which they are liked by peers. Poor emotion regulation can impair children’s thinking, thereby compromising their judgment and decision making.
Children’s developing capacity to control impulses helps them adapt to social situations and follow rules. As infants grow, they become increasingly able to exercise voluntary control over behavior such as waiting for needs to be met, inhibiting potentially hurtful behavior, and acting according to social expectations, including safety rules. Peer interactions often offer natural opportunities for young children to practice impulse control, as they make progress in learning about cooperative play and sharing. Young children’s understanding or lack of understanding of requests made of them may be one factor contributing to their responses.
During the infant/toddler years, children begin to develop an understanding of the responses, communication, emotional expression, and actions of other people. This development includes infants’ understanding of what to expect from others, how to engage in back-and-forth social interactions, and which social scripts are to be used for which social situations. “At each age, social cognitive understanding contributes to social competence, interpersonal sensitivity, and an awareness of how the self relates to other individuals and groups in a complex social world”.
To treat the infants and toddlers, first we have to understand the nature of development, their feelings and their reactions.