Let's Talk More About Emotions
As presented on the previous pages, emotional development is a complex task that begins in infancy and continues into adulthood. The first emotions that can be recognized in babies include joy, anger, sadness and fear. Later, as children begin to develop a sense of self, more complex emotions like shyness, surprise, elation, embarrassment, shame, guilt, pride and empathy emerge. School-age children are still learning to identify emotions, to understand why they happen and how to manage them appropriately. As children develop, the things that provoke their emotional responses change, as do the strategies they use to manage them.
Very young children’s emotions are mainly made up of physical reactions (e.g., heart racing, butterflies in stomach) and behaviors. As they grow, children develop the ability to recognize feelings. Their emotions are also increasingly influenced by their thinking. They become more aware of their own feelings and better able to recognize and understand other people’s. An emotional reaction of a 10-year-old is likely to be far more complex than that of a three-year-old.
The experience of emotion includes several components:
- Physical responses (e.g., heart rate, breathing, hormone levels)
- Feelings that children recognize and learn to name
- Thoughts and judgements associated with feelings
- Action signals (e.g., a desire to approach, escape or ﬁght)
Many things influence the ways that children express emotions, both through words and behavior. These influences include:
- Values and beliefs about appropriate and inappropriate ways of expressing emotions that children learn from parents and early childhood professionals.
- How effectively children’s emotional needs are usually met
- Children’s temperaments
- Emotional behaviors that children have learned through observation or experience
- The extent to which families and children are under various kinds of stress
Course Navigation Menu