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Addressing a Child's Emotional Development

by Anna Green, studioD

Children’s emotional development can be complex because it changes rapidly as they age. Furthermore, the child’s upbringing and the community in which she lives can affect her level of emotional development. Even though understanding your child’s exact emotional needs can be difficult, being available for your child and responsive to her needs and behaviors can lead to healthful emotional development.


You can pick up cues on where your child is in her emotional development by observing her behaviors and listening to her. Children might be reluctant to initiate conversations with their parents, particularly with difficult issues such as bullying and peer relationships. Let your child know you are available to talk. Ask her about what is going on in her life, at school and with her friends, and show interest in the topics that are important to her.

Realistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations can be emotionally challenging for a child. If a parent sets expectations that are too high for a child’s age or abilities, he can become frustrated or anxious. Similarly, if a parent sets low expectations, a child might internalize those expectations and develop low self-esteem, according to the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. It is important for parents to set rules, boundaries and goals for their children that are both achievable and that challenge their children to achieve their potential.

Validating Emotions

It's hard for some parents to remember what it was like to be a child. Conflicts with peers or homework problems might seem inconsequential to adults, but to children, these issues can have significant emotional weight. Even though you might not be able to empathize fully with your children’s emotional responses to daily stressors, it is nonetheless important for you to validate your child’s feelings and show concern for her problems.

The Parent-Child Relationship

Fostering a strong parent-child attachment can lead to positive emotional outcomes in children. This bonding process starts in infancy, but continues through adolescence. Parents can maintain a positive connection with their children by spending quality time with them, showing them affection and giving a balance of discipline and positive feedback, explains mental health counselor Janie Lacy on PBS’s “This Emotional Life.” Additionally, Texas Health Resources presents research indicating that noncompetitive, creative play can foster favorable emotional outcomes in children. As a parent, you can play an active role in emphasizing this by stressing the importance of learning, experiencing and growing instead of simply focusing on winning or goal-driven activities.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.

Photo Credits

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