Child psychology, also called child development, the study of the psychological processes of children and, specifically, how these processes differ from those of adults, how they develop from birth to the end of adolescence, and how and why they differ from one child to the next. The topic is sometimes grouped with infancy, adulthood, and aging under the category of developmental psychology.
The data of child psychology are gathered from a variety of sources. Observations by relatives, teachers, and other adults, as well as the psychologist’s direct observation of and interviews with a child (or children), provide much material. In some cases a one-way window or mirror is used so that children are free to interact with their environment or others without knowing that they are being watched. Personality tests, intelligence tests, and experimental methods have also proved useful in understanding child development.
Why Is It Important?
Everyone wants their child to have healthy development, but it’s not always clear if a child’s behaviour is a symptom of a normal stage in development or a sign of an abnormality. Child psychologists can help you understand the difference. Understanding the normal and abnormal psychological patterns of a child can help parents understand how to best communicate and connect with their child, teach their child coping mechanisms for managing emotions, and help their child progress and thrive in each new developmental stage.
Child psychologists can also identify abnormal behaviours early, help detect the root of common behavioural issues such as learning issues, hyperactivity, or anxiety, and help children work through early childhood trauma. They can also help to prevent, evaluate, and diagnose developmental delays or abnormalities such as autism.
There are three major contexts that we need to consider in our analysis of child psychology.
The culture a child lives in contributes a set of values, customs, shared assumptions and ways of living that influence development throughout the lifespan. Culture may play a role in how children relate to their parents, the type of education they receive and the type of childcare that is provided.
Relationships with peers and adults have an effect on how children think, learn and develop. Families, schools and peer groups all make up an important part of the social context.
Social class can also play a major role in child development. Socioeconomic status (often abbreviated as SES), is based upon a number of different factors including how much education people have, how much money they earn, the job they hold and where they live.
Tips To Understand Your Child’s Emotional Experience
Parenting is more than just providing comforts for your children. It is being there for the child emotionally, and providing them a sense of security. Here are a few basic child psychology tips that will help you understand children better:
1.Observation Is Key – One of the simplest, yet most effective, ways to learn about your child’s experience is careful observation. Show interest in what your children are doing or saying. Observe their actions, expressions, and temperament. Keep in mind that each child is unique. Your child will be different from you and their siblings.
2.Spend ‘Quality’ Time With Your Children – Parents today are busy juggling work and home. Multi-tasking, as they call it, allows them to take care of many things at a time, one of the ‘things’ being the child. If you have been spending time with your kid in this fashion, it is time for a change. If you want to understand your children, you need to make time for them.
3.Children benefit from focused attention – Even if only for short periods of time, it can be helpful to focus your full attention on being with and listening to your child. You may spend lots of time with them while doing other tasks such as cooking dinner and driving them to school. This time is important too. But even 10 minutes of “special time” can go a long way towards creating a positive home environment and building your relationship with your child.
4.Be Mindful of Your Child’s Environment – Research has shown that a child’s behavior and attitudes are shaped significantly by the environment in which they are raised. The home environment can affect a child’s brain development, which in turn affects the development of his language and cognitive skills. Your child’s behavior is influenced by the people that are around them and the quality of interactions. Take time to gauge the kind of ambiance that has been created at home and at school.
5.Have a basic knowledge of brain development – The brain grows in relationships. Some child development researchers refer to parents as “neuroarchitects.” When children interact with a caregiver who is focused on them, it helps connections between brain cells to grow. The brain is shaped by the experiences that the child has, and this in turn impacts how he responds to different situations. Positive interactions can influence the brain’s growth to facilitate development in a healthy way. Conversely, adverse experiences such as an environment of constant fighting or emotional neglect can have a negative impact on the development of the brain.
6.Listen – Listening is important when you have a conversation with your child. You may initiate a conversation to get your child talking, but then make an effort to listen to what they are trying to say. Kids may not be able to express themselves clearly, which is why it is helpful to pay attention to the words that they use and their non-verbal cues as well. Focus On: Tone, the way they stress a word or phrase, Expressions, which tell you how they feel, Body language, watch out for eye-contact, how they use their hands and the posture. Not only should you listen, but also let your child know that they are being heard and taken seriously.
7.Children express emotions in different ways – Besides talking, children express their feelings through activities. If your children love to draw, write, or act, encourage them to do that more often. Attending an art or painting classes can help them express themselves better. Your child may choose to keep a journal in which they can write about what they did on a given day and how they felt about it. The more your child writes or draws, the better they get at expressing themselves. Show interest in their artwork but take care not to over-interpret or you may end up displacing your emotions as theirs. If you misunderstand their work, take time to work through the misunderstanding.
8.Ask Questions that Encourage Communication – If you want your child to share their intentions, certain kinds of questions can help. Instead of asking “Do you like this song?”, which warrants either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, ask “What do you think about this song?”, which will offer an opening for your child to say more. While you may not have an answer to questions your child raises, brushing away a child’s question as silly can discourage them from asking any questions in future.
9.Educate Yourself About Child Development – Some understanding of child development gathered from books or professionals can be useful. But always remember that you are the expert with regards to your child. A culture of excessive parenting advice can undermine a parent’s natural expertise.
10.Show Empathy – When you take your child’s feelings seriously while letting them know that you may not have the exact same feelings, you help them to take ownership of their emotional experience. For example, a toddler may have a meltdown because they cannot find their red sippy cup but must instead use the green one. Their powerful feelings come from a sense of helplessness and frustration. While you do not have the same feelings and may think the difference is insignificant, taking their feelings seriously while setting limits on their behavior shows them that you have respect for their perspective.
11.Understand your child’s temperament – Each child has a unique set of qualities and ways of interacting with the world. Some are more likely to be flexible while others are comfortable with routine. Some are cuddly while others are extremely sensitive to different forms of sensory input. Children have different ways of handling transitions and change. Starting from birth, taking time to notice your child’s particular way of being in the world can support their healthy development.
Take The Challenge
Understanding your child’s emotional development takes time and effort. If you have more than one child each one will be different. While having a consistent parenting style can be helpful and reassuring for all of your children, flexibility according to each individual child’s unique temperament is important. The time and care you take to understand your child’s emotional experience will serve to nurture them to develop into a healthy adult.
It gives parents the resources to help their children advance through the stages of development and gives physicians a deeper look into the mental health and possible challenges a child might face in regards to learning or social differences, or developmental delays.