Child development is complex. To make it easier to understand, we look into how children grow and develop skills across four main areas of development:
1. Cognitive Development
The ability to learn and process information. For example, learning to solve a math problem, understanding the logic of science.
2. Speech and Language Development
The ability to understand and use language. For example, reading, communicating.
3. Physical Development
The ability to use body parts for daily functioning and grow stronger. For example, fine motor skills (picking up small stuff with fingers), gross motor skills (walking), eating right to build strong immune system
4. Social Emotional Development
The ability to interact with others, regulate own emotion and behaviour. For example, taking turns in games, anger management, self-understanding.
What We Do To Encourage Each Area of Development
Over the years, we have had a systematic way to encourage cognitive, language and physical development of a child. There are learning tools like books, toys and activities to help a child's cognitive and language development during early age, and then there are schools, learning centres where they learn knowledge based on age-appropriate syllabus and develop language skills. Physical development is so well-researched whereby we know when a child can be given solid diet, when a child will start crawling, walking, etc. Last but not least, what about social emotional development? This is tricky because we don't have a structured way to encourage this area of development.
The Missing Piece
Social emotional development is one of the core areas of child development, unfortunately it is oftentimes overlooked. It could be due to the lack of a systematic approach, it could be also due to the mentality that we expect children to figure things out as they grow. Without proper guidance, a child's social-emotional competencies develop poorly and it continues to impact them for the rest of their life. Here's a story about Jessie:
At the age of 5, Jessie recognised that she has a bigger physique than her friends. She couldn't fit in her friends' dresses, and she couldn't perform certain posture in her ballet class. She rejected ballet classes, she was highly sensitive when others talked about her body. This wasn't being addressed by any adults, not her parents nor the teachers. Time went by, she grew into a teenager. She was conscious about her body more than ever and it became worse when puberty kicked in. She was timid all the way till adulthood. She was determined to do something about her body and she succeeded, she managed to become two size smaller, but it didn't stop there. She has been struggling with the insecurity of her body for the rest of her life.
Imagine if her insecurity had been addressed at the age of 5. Imagine if she had been guided to understand her body better, to love and embrace who she was. Imagine if she had the ability to work on her own feelings. It is true that we can't spoon-feed children all their life, but it is our responsibility to help them build the necessary skills at a young age in order for them to figure things out and thrive in life.
It is time for us to take children's social emotional development seriously.
Stay tuned for our next article, we will be sharing how and what you can do to foster children's social emotional development.