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On MY Way

Emotional Development

Developing a Sense of Self and Identity
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
Children are developing personal identities and exploring their sense of self.
  • They are beginning to think of themselves in terms of their physical appearance, preferences, academic success, athletic skill and social abilities.
  • This may result in feelings of confidence and belonging, but it can also result in feelings of insecurity.
  • They are beginning to appreciate the ways in which people resemble one another, and the ways in which they differ.
  • They have begun to think and talk about what they want to be when they grow up.
  • Reinforce for children that they are good at things, and support their development in those areas.
  • Reinforce for them that people should not be judged by what they are good at, but instead should be judged for being a good person.
  • Give them lots of opportunities to try out different things.
  • Once you have identified their areas of interest, help them engage in activities that involve those interests, and make sure they see that those areas of interest are important to you.
  • Attempt to connect them with positive role models and mentors, particularly those who reflect their personal and cultural identity.
  • Help them learn about truth and reconciliation and Canada’s commitment to Indigenous peoples.
They are building interest and connection to social and cultural identities.
  • Children are beginning to see the world as consisting of social and cultural groups.
  • They see themselves and their peers as belonging to one or several of those social or cultural groups.
  • They show pride in developing a sense of belonging with certain other individuals and groups.
  • They are starting to appreciate the values that are important to groups and individuals.
  • Cultural identity is a protective factor for children— expose and involve children in their own culture learnings as much as possible.
  • Tell children their family story so they get a sense of belonging to their culture.
  • Expose children to traditional toys.
  • Participate in traditional/culturally grounded parenting classes (for parents and caregivers).
  • Start talking to children, in positive ways, about various ways of life, cultural models and identities.
Developing a Sense of Competence
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
How children feel about themselves is evolving, based on personal attributes and feedback.
  • Particularly in the early middle years, children may not be good at distinguishing between their desire to be good at something and their actual competence, so they often overestimate their abilities.
  • In the later middle years, they develop a more realistic level of self-efficacy (their belief in their ability to succeed at something), due to increasing self-awareness, ability to make social comparisons, critical assessment of their competencies and feedback from others.
  • They are able to describe what they like about themselves, how they are similar to others and how they are different.
  • Acknowledge what children are good at, and support them in doing those activities as often and as well as possible.
  • Use the things they are good at, whatever those things might be, to help them build their selfconfidence.
  • Support them to develop a realistic selfassessment of their abilities, and take pride in their strengths.
  • Provide praise, positive feedback, and encouragement when it is deserved.
  • Be a mentor to them. It’s one of the best ways to help them build leadership skills, independence and confidence.
Children are developing self-efficacy. They are increasingly confident in their ability to accomplish certain tasks and goals.
  • They are developing social, physical and school-related skills, and are clearly proud of these new abilities.
  • Help children understand their strengths, but also their limits.
  • Look for ways for children to gain a sense of achievement and proficiency in an activity or skill.
  • Watch for signs that they are losing motivation. Look for ways to increase their belief in themselves and their abilities, such as assigning unique responsibilities that you know they can carry out.
  • Try to place them in situations where they can learn without worrying about being compared to others.
Children are increasingly ready and even eager to take on new challenges.
  • They have a willingness to work hard at things.
  • They are eager to contribute and show how competent they are.
  • Increasingly, they want to take on, and succeed at, more complex tasks.
  • They are developing overarching goals, commitments, and a sense of future.
  • Encourage practice and hard work.
  • Set high but realistic goals that children can achieve.
  • Encourage them to set their own goals.
  • Encourage children to practice learned techniques.
  • Teach them to persevere and see failures as learning opportunities.
  • Allow children the opportunity to fail — and to learn from it. Teach them that taking risks is a core part of learning.
Moral Reasoning and Fairness
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
Moral reasoning is becoming externally motivated.
  • Through the middle years, children will move through clear stages of moral reasoning.
  • At first, moral behaviour is based on self-interest and the fear of consequences for breaking the rules.
  • Later, behaviour is geared to getting rewards for doing the right thing, rather than avoiding punishment.
  • Following this, behaviour is driven by an understanding of duty and justice and a desire for social approval.
  • Be firm but fair.
  • Create a warm environment that has consistent rules and high expectations for behaviour.
  • Discuss values, moral and ethical issues, and social responsibility.
  • Children will find themselves wrestling with moral dilemmas. Work with them, but try to ensure that they arrive at their own answers.
  • Talk with them and explore their values and how to be inclusive and accepting of difference and diversity.
Children are developing a sense of right and wrong and what is fair.
  • They are beginning to appreciate values such as fairness, tolerance, understanding and respect.
  • They are interested in the reasons for rules, and are beginning to question rules they believe are unfair.
  • They sometimes make suggestions for improving the rules.
  • They can act fairly, and when resolving a conflict take fairness into consideration.
  • Hold children accountable for their actions in a consistent manner, whether with rewards or consequences as appropriate.
  • If there are consequences for bad behaviour, make sure that children understand why and how their behaviour was unacceptable.
  • Discuss values and ethical behaviour with them.
  • Identify and discuss the values that you share with children and explain why they are important.
Emotional Regulation (Emotional Understanding and Expression)
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
They have developed the ability to perceive and understand emotion in themselves and others.
  • Children begin noticing when others are upset, and understand why.
  • They are aware of their own reactions to things.
  • They have started developing strategies to help themselves and others.
  • Between the ages of five and 10, they show increasing sensitivity to facial expressions of surprise, disgust and fear.
  • Between the ages of 10 and 12, they show increasing sensitivity to angry and sad facial expressions.
  • Be a model for them. Show children that you are aware of their emotions, and the emotions of others.
  • Help them describe their emotions in words, such as sad, angry, and happy.
  • Provide opportunities for emotional expression through art, music or movement.
  • Help them understand that emotions like fear, sadness and anger will pass.
  • Explicitly address and help them understand their anxieties.
  • Some children have difficulty recognizing subtle social cues. Take a direct approach and help them learn to recognize and describe facial expressions and body language.
They are becoming aware that they can influence the way they think and feel.
  • Children begin to understand that the way they think about things can affect the way they feel.
  • They are able to use words to label and discuss their emotions.
  • They can discuss how various situations and behaviours affect the way they feel, and they are learning how best to respond to those situations and how to modify those behaviours.
  • Help children see the link between changing their thoughts and mood.
  • Watch for situations in which children are blaming themselves, blaming others, exaggerating their problems or avoiding them altogether. Try to help them see what they are doing.
Their ability to regulate and manage emotions, while limited, is improving.
  • Children start being able to regulate their emotional expression to avoid hurting others or to protect themselves.
  • They understand the difference between experiencing an emotion and expressing it.
  • They dwell and obsess less than they used to on mishaps and challenges.
  • Set a good example by being a consistent and strong role model. Show children that you can manage your emotions.
  • Make sure that home is a positive and safe emotional environment.
  • Show warmth and affection to children.
  • Help children by talking them through adverse emotional events.
  • When an emotional experience occurs, help children to understand it and express their feelings, as well as talk through ways to cope or be comforted when difficult emotions arise.
  • Teach children mindfulness techniques.