Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
It is a significant phase for both child and parent when the child goes to school for the first time at around five years of age. If children have had positive social experiences during their preschool years, they will now have a good foundation for forming and maintaining relationships with school friends. This will serve them well right through their childhood and beyond. The child’s school teacher, as well as other adults they come into contacts with, such as relatives and a friend’s parents, all have an expanding influence in the child’s life.
As the child’s reasoning centres are developing, they will have the joy of accomplishing new skills such as reading. At this stage, regarding emotional development, a child will now be able to use cognitive skills to comfort themselves. They will be able to take a time out to process, then express, their emotions. For example: “I felt sad when Mary wouldn’t play with me at lunchtime.” This is a critical advance regarding the ongoing development of a child’s emotional maturity.
The ability to express “difficult” emotions in a way that another can hear during a time of conflict is a skill that many adults do not possess. It is common for adults who struggle with emotional skills to instead react (that is, go into fight-or-flight mode) when under emotional pressure. This can create a lot of stress and disconnection within relationships at home or in the workplace, so it is worthwhile developing these skills at age-appropriate stages, if possible.
When your child is nurtured in a safe, loving home environment, it helps them to feel secure in engaging in co-operative play. For example, “I’ll get the plates, and you can bring the cups.” This is the beginning of learning to work together in teams and fosters an environment of mutual respect. At this stage, group friendships are important, as the child’s awareness and circle of friends are increasing.
The child’s developing cognitive skills at this stage help facilitate them in not only feeling empathy but in expressing it too. “You’ve fallen over! Let me help you up.” Developing cognition helps them to learn how to negotiate, starting between the ages of five and eight. For example, “if you be the mummy, I’ll be the baby in this game, and then we can swap.” As children are just learning these skills, often they still need assistance, guidance, and support.
This five-to-eight-year-old period is a wonderful time to watch and encourage your child as they begin to develop new skills, like reading and writing, and experiencing the world in a cognitive way, adding to their emotional skills. This is not a time to push them or pressure them into high-performance academic achievement. Pushing children too hard can be counterproductive; when the level of exposure to learning becomes excessive, stress hormones are released that destroy nerve cells (The Riggs Institute).
Instead of driving your child academically, witness, support and allow them to revel in the joy and wonder of learning new skills. Our job as parents is to support and encourage our children to be the best they can be, in a fun-filled and joyful way! Joyful children grow up to be joyful adults.
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