Social & Emotional Growth
Significant changes in social and emotional growth occur between early childhood and the late teen years. Your child or teen may or may not exhibit these common characteristics.
- Early childhood (6 to 9 years): Self-esteem is developing. They’re beginning to care about what peers think and want to spend time with friends, but at the same time, they still need attention and approval from adults. Boys and girls in early childhood are beginning to experience worry, confusion, excitement or fear.
- Middle childhood (10 to 12 years): Boys and girls in middle childhood need support and guidance from parents, but begin to test authority. Social skills emerge, with “best friends” and cliques developing. Some may become overly concerned with weight and physical appearance, and some may begin to experiment with tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
- Early teens (13 to 15 years): Early teens seek independence, but find security in parents’ limits and continue to look to them for values and guidance. As they try to establish their own identities, they want acceptance from peers. Friendship and romance are important, and some become concerned over physical changes and emerging sexuality.
- Late teens (16 to 18 years): Late teens are becoming independent. They explore different roles, looks, values, lifestyles and friendships, and they begin to form their own values and standards. Youth in late teens learn how to share as they form more meaningful one-to-one relationships, especially with those of the opposite sex.
Children in middle childhood and adolescence begin to spend more time with friends and rely on them for a sense of belonging and acceptance. Peers can have both a positive and a negative influence on your child, so help her find friends who will reinforce the values you’re trying to teach. As your child reaches adolescence, becomes more independent and looks to find her own identity separate from the family, she’ll become more vulnerable to risky behaviors.
Affirming Cultural Identity
If your child is from a cultural or racial background different from yours, learn as much as you can about her background and how it may influence her identity. Pay attention if she seems confused about who she is, and talk to her about feelings and experiences. Here are some practical suggestions for affirming your child’s cultural identity:
- Celebrate her identity by getting involved in activities that allow for direct contact with her culture.
- Help your child develop a positive view of her identity, including important customs, religious or social events.
- Encourage your child to explore her own cultural group, even if it means she connects more to that group than to yours.
- Anticipate feelings and experiences your child might have living in a family from a different race or cultural background.
- Recognize the cultural identity your child has in being part of your family; help her learn to value that as well as her own.
- Encourage your child to talk about her own cultural traditions – and those of your family – to her friends and peers.