Friday, September 24, 2010
The life of an infant is enviably structured; everything is tailored to the child’s personal needs. When she wants a warm bottle, a clean diaper or an undemanding playmate, an attentive parent obliges. With the end of infancy, however, this comfortable patterns changes. No sooner does the child emerge from her parents’ protective cocoon –tentatively walking talking and asserting her independence- than the pressure to conform to the grown up standards of family and society begins.
Suddenly the toddler is faced with a multitude of new ideas to comprehend and tasks to master. He is urged not to soil his diaper at all, but to recognize the purpose of the potty chair and anticipate his need to use it. Play no longer means grabbing a toy from another’s hands to use or fling away at will; he must learn to share his toys and to consider the feelings of others. And parental praise, in the past so forthcoming, is now lavished or with held on the basis of the child’s actions.
The fast paced lessons of early childhood, like any process of maturation and change, bring with them predictable bouts of bewilderment and insecurity. A child’s stressful feelings may take many odd forms: stubborn battles at bath time or bedtime, thumb sucking, toileting accidents after months of being trained. All thought you may not immediately link such episodes to your youngster’s development; these behaviors too are a normal- and often necessary- part of growing up.
Happily they are also transitory, usually lasting only as long as it takes for your child to become comfortable at her new level of accomplishment.
Monday, September 13, 2010
The child’s first ideas about emotions were undistilled collections of everything she knew about a particular feeling. Her own experiences with feeling sad were mixed with everything that she could observe when she sensed that her mother was feeling unhappy. It is only with time and experience that the child learns to distinguish between its own feelings and those of someone else. The same sense of “me” and “you” that helps the child accept limits enables her for the first time, at the age of three or four, to feel empathy or compassionate love. Now, when the child sees her mother sad, she may try to help with a special hug or a handful of flowers.
The preschooler’s awareness of other people’s feelings is part of a growing ability to categorize her experiences. Increasingly she can perceive grown up distinctions between self and other animate and inanimate, right and wrong real and make believe yesterday and today. Once she has grasped the distinction between yesterday and today her first understanding of the concept of time patience will follow, for she now can appreciate the promise of future rewards.
The result of these developments is a set of skills that will be central to the child’s social and emotional adjustment throughout the coming years. These are the skills that will enable her to focus her attention and follow rules in school to distinguish between reality and fantasy in play, to plan a course of action and work toward a future goal in a job, and to consider the feelings and needs of those who share her life. Although her emotional abilities will continue to grow and change well into adulthood, the foundations are firmly laid by kinder garden age.
As you observe your child’s progress, remember that the path will not be entirely linear. There are bound to be some slips, some fits and start. Particularly when your child is learning something new, he may regress in other areas that he has long since mastered. By the age of five, your child will be standing on his own emotionally equipped to march off to school and take his place in world of other people. Like many accomplishments in life, the end of this journey is only a good beginning.